Friday, November 11, 2011

My Take on the News: 'There Oughtta be a Law?'

The threat of Islamic laws forbidding blasphemy has been in the news. So has hostility toward any religion. I think both are really bad ideas.

'There Oughtta be a Law?'

I remember the 'good old days,' when "America: Love it or leave it!" was a popular slogan. Along with "hell no, we won't go!" On the whole, I'm glad that 'the good old days' aren't coming back.

Another catchphrase from my youth is 'there oughtta be a law!' Back then, 'regular Americans' occasionally said that when 'those crazy kids' said or did something they didn't like.

I've felt the same way, sometimes, when another person said or did something that I didn't like. Maybe wanting everybody to be 'like me' is part of being human. Or, maybe not.

I've noticed that many folks act as if it's their duty, or right, to force others to act 'correctly.' I remember the trailing edge of McCarthyism, endured American academia when political correctness was in flower, and didn't particularly like what either philosophical fad did to personal freedoms.

'Everybody Knows What Those People are Like'

On the whole, I'm glad that I've never been part of a self-identified group of self-righteous do-gooders who had the power to make others act the 'right' way. Not being part of 'the establishment' can be an advantage.1

If that doesn't sound like what 'one of those religious people' should say: I'm not surprised. I'll get back to that.

I've been told that racial/ethnic and religious biases follow a fairly predictable pattern. I think there's something to that.

Bias Made Easy

It's as if there's a 'menu' of assumptions about 'those people.' Imagine completing the next paragraph by checking off two or three of the items on this list, and I think you'll see what I mean.
'Everybody knows' what they are like. Those people over there. The ones who are:
  • Stupid
    • But occasionally cunning
    • And sometimes too smart
      • You can tell, because they always wear glasses
  • Lazy
    • Or never stop working
  • Dishonest
  • Violent
  • Dangerous

Bias: An Equal-Opportunity Affliction

"They" can be almost any identifiable group:
  • Folks whose ancestors mostly lived in
    • Europe
    • Africa
    • East Asia
    • The Americas
    • Wherever
  • Citizens of
    • America
    • Germany
    • Italy
    • Japan
    • Wherever
That sort of ethnic/national/racial bias has been unfashionable for several decades now in America. For the most part, anyway.2 For which I'm duly grateful.

I'm also glad that freedom of religion is part of this country's system of laws and values. We're free to worship as we see fit, or not worship at all.

Which brings me around to what I've seen in the news lately.

Religious Freedom

"Book outlines threat of Muslim blasphemy laws to free speech"
Michelle Bauman, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (November 10, 2011)

"A new book on blasphemy and apostasy laws shows the dangers that intolerant policies pose to freedom of speech in both Muslim countries and the Western world.

" 'The freedom to discuss religion, the freedom to discuss faith, even to disagree, to argue, to criticize—this is at the heart of a free democratic politics,' Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom, told CNA.

"Marshall said that free speech is particularly important in countries such as Iran where politics and religion are intertwined.

"His new book 'Silenced: How Apostasy Laws and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide' (Oxford University Press, $35.00), examines laws punishing blasphemy and apostasy in the Muslim world and how those laws are affecting the Western world, including America...."
I'm a practicing Catholic, so I have to support freedom of religion. It's in the rules (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)

Freedom: For Everyone

That freedom is not "freedom to worship my way." Even if I could, I wouldn't be allowed force someone to 'act Catholic:'
" 'Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or in association with others, within due limits.'34 This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it 'continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.'35"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2106)
Does this mean I liked it, when an associate professor at a Minnesota university tore a page from the Quran, and another from some atheist's book; desecrated a consecrated Host; threw all three in the trash; published a photograph of the result; and bragged about it?

(from PZ Myers, Pharyngula (July 24, 2008), used w/o permission)

No. I did not like it.

But I'm glad that I live in America, where the professor is still alive, and the university hasn't been set ablaze.

It's not that Catholics around here don't care. I think the non-violent response is partly due to America's culture: I hope that it's also because Catholics in this area understand our faith.

Catholics living in Minnesota expressed their displeasure with the professor's actions by writing letters of protest. There are other possible approaches to an insult like that:

Familiar Response to 'Humor'

"Offices attacked after magazine mocks Islam"
CNA/Europa Press (November 3, 2011)

"The attack against the offices of the French satirical magazine, 'Charlie Hebdo,' has been unanimously condemned in France.

"The front-page of the latest issue, subtitled 'Sharia Hebdo,' a reference to Islamic law, showed a cartoon-like man with a turban, white robe and beard smiling and saying in an accompanying bubble, '100 lashes if you don't die laughing.'

"The magazine also 'invited' the Prophet Muhammad to be its guest editor for the week.

"The offices of the magazine were firebombed with Molotov cocktails early on Nov. 2. Computer hackers also posted pictures of a mosque on Charlie Hebdo's website with the words: 'There is no god besides Allah.'..."
Do I think that "100 lashes if you don't die laughing" was in good taste? Or appropriate?

Not really.

Do I think torching the magazine offices was a good idea?

Not really.

As I've said elsewhere, "with friends like these, Islam doesn't need enemies."

Are all Muslims arsonists? I don't think so.

Does what happened if France, and the 9/11 attacks, 'prove' that religion is bad?


"Atheocracy:" Bad Idea

"Bishop Conley sees 'atheocracy' as major threat to pro-life cause"
Kevin J. Jones, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (November 8, 2011)

"Increasing hostility to religion and growing restrictions on religious expression are 'the biggest challenge the pro-life movement faces,' Bishop James D. Conley told a benefit for a Dallas pro-life group.

" 'If we think it's been hard over these past four decades, I think the biggest challenges we face lie ahead of us,' the apostolic administrator of the Denver archdiocese said Nov. 5.

" 'America today is becoming what I would call an atheocracy - a society that is actively hostile to religious faith and religious believers. And I might add - the faith that our society is most hostile toward is Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.'..."
Well, Bishop Conley has religious beliefs. And 'everybody knows what those people are like.

Like I said earlier: I remember the trailing edge of McCarthyism. That particular effort to enforce conformity won't be back.

Today's threat to freedom isn't just 'those terrorists over there.' I think Americans should be at least as concerned about folks in today's establishment who seem determined to protect us from religion.

'For our own good,' of course.

I've posted about America, religion, and getting a grip, before:
News and views:

1 When I was growing up, America's 'establishment' was mostly male, looked 'Anglo,' and somewhat-uncritically embraced a selection of conservative social and political values. That was then, this is now, and I've posted about it before:
2 Concerns, rational and otherwise, about "illegal aliens" remind me of the 'good old days,' when 'separate but equal' was a moderately popular political slogan. Pigeonholing people into a few simple categories doesn't always make sense, but folks do it anyway:

1 comment:

Brigid said...

There are laws against hostility? "The threat of Islamic laws forbidding blasphemy, and hostility toward religion, have been in the news."

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.