Thursday, January 15, 2015

Secular Offense

The non-religious are used to having our lack of religion dismissed, ridiculed, rebutted. Many of us grew up in religious communities, and are accustomed to displays of religiosity. We rarely take offense at the expression of religious opinions, except to the extent that they are offensive for other reasons. Only the attempt to make religious ritual a part of state functions is directly odious. I am personally offended by anyone saying that "religious murders are wrong, but...". I fly into a rage when I hear that. Of course, nobody notices this because I am only at home in front of my computer. Of course, my rage does not mean that I have a right to commit physical violence against people expressing that opinion. By their own logic, though, they should expect me, and others like me, to be violent. After all, they have offended me! Why wouldn't they expect a punch in the nose? The Pope made the analogy just yesterday, that if someone cursed his mother in the Argentine fashion, he would punch them.

The difference is that that non-religion, for the non-religious, is not a sacred icon. You insult my lack of religion, you don't insult me at all, because that is not a part of me. You can burn effigies of Bertrand Russell or Darwin all day long, I don't care. You might as well insult my love of cilantro or my lack of affection for cats.

Nobody cares about offending a secular humanist, and perhaps they are right not to care, because we are slow to offend and slow to violence.

What I have learned from my own post, then, is that the claim to offense is a powerful tool that non-religious people don't use a whole lot. By claiming this power you automatically gain a mother who can be cursed at obscenely, and hence the right to punch people in the face. The non-religious are orphans. You can say "chinga tu madre" all day and our answer is that we have no mother to be fucked.


  1. Side tangent: we can argue about the magazine in itself, the meaning of satire, how problematic or not the cartoons were. But most people I have seen condemning the cartoons have made no effort in getting the full picture of the magazine (for example, they published cartoons that are the most devastating critique of Israel attacks on Gaza I have seen). They also refuse to take into account the specific French context of CH. They universalize, from a very US-centric perspective, what is offensive and racist, and what is not. Many of these people, just a few months ago, were all up in arms defending Salaita's tweets as not antisemitic and proclaiming the need to understand the context, and explaining how they were provocative but justified. And if you disagreed, you were labeled a "disgusting Zionist).
    Sorry for the rant.

  2. Rant all you want. I agree completely with every word of your comment.

  3. "Many of these people, just a few months ago, were all up in arms defending Salaita's tweets as not antisemitic and proclaiming the need to understand the context, and explaining how they were provocative but justified."

    - Good point! You can't be for free speech only when it's convenient. Russia, by the way, has started jailing people who come out with the "Je suis Charlie" paraphernalia. Their statements are deemed offensive because they support the cartoonists who were offensive. So now even just mentioning the context that can remind of the "offensive" speech is also an offense. And then we'll get to the point when it will be offensive to remind of the offensive reminder of the offensive reminder of the original offence.

    This is a road to nowhere.

  4. I just seem not to be able to react to these terrorist attacks as one is expected to. I did not freak out about 9-11, did not freak out about this thing in Paris, but AM freaked out about the torture report and about how this did not get people into the streets protesting.

    It appears that I am much less frightened by natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and so on than it is normal to be, and much more upset by deliberate state terror than I would be were I a good American or good citizen of the West.

  5. Although I understand. Terror happens to good innocent people and could happen to us so we have to be scared.
    Torture happens to possibly bad people and will probably not happen to us so it is less important because from our perspective it is more under our control (i.e. we can avoid becoming victims). So I am thinking in a distorted manner when I think state violence like that is more scary than violence by these splinter groups, because I am not thinking as I should for my class, and so on.

    And my 7th grade English teacher would have said there is no particular reason to compare these 2 things and I see the point but still. And there is all this uproar in the press about how the film Selma "misrepresented" LBJ (i.e. did not make him the main character and did not make him a hero) and so that kind of speech is not virtuous.

    I thought Salaita's tweets were antisemitic and my research says the racial system is global. I do not buy the excuse that there are USocentric racial slurs and others. It doesn't mean Salaita shouldn't have kept his job or the journalists should have been killed, but they say offensive things.

    Again it is always interesting who is supposed to have the right to be offensive and not. I am hearing from various quarters today that it is important for white and middle class people to say whatever they want and not have freeways blocked. It matters less what happens to anyone else.

    This is my rant.