What’s in a name?

September 28, 2009

This coming Wednesday, September 30th will be the first occurrence of International Blasphemy Day. This is an event that has been organised to show the importance and altogether relevance of free speech in society. The name obviously invokes the feeling that this is an event designed to ridicule religion and the choice of date will do nothing to relieve these feelings. September 30th was chosen because it is the anniversary of the publication of a cartoon in Denmark depicting the prophet Mohammed that outraged the Muslim world.

Muslim protests in Britain

Muslim protests in Britain

But was this date chosen merely to anger the religious world and appear to give licence to the abuse of religions and the faithful? I think not. It was in fact that nearly any anniversary of an event that was shown to stifle free speech would involve religion. It seems that the religious are at the same time the most easily offended and the first to try to dampen free speech.

What makes up the basic concept of free speech is to have the ability to say anything that isn’t a threat to violence without the fear of arrest or reprisals. There obviously has to be some restrictions on this in any society but as a whole society censors what is said itself. The people will shout down what is unacceptable and nowadays this will result in a trial by media. This system isn’t fail proof but that is one of the key factors of why it works and also one of the proofs.

The idea of having a day to celebrate free speech is a good one but it is open to the possibility of been soiled by personal arguments. The famed evolutionary biologist and atheist PZ Myers has not helped matters by stating on his blog Pharyngula that “the purpose of the day is to jeer at religion”. But at the same time I can also make the prediction that any action taken on the 30th of September will be seen by each of the three major Abrahamic religions as a personal attack on them. Some of these actions will be attacks on one or more religion and a lot of these will in fact be justified.

Any people who do attack the religions for their violation of the freedom of speech will however have to be very careful. It could be all too easy for them to begin blocking the very freedom of speech that we must allow for everyone, including but not especially the religious.

On the whole I think that the choice of name was a good one for one simple reason. It will bring the event to the fore by stirring very personal feelings. It showed mastery in marketing by causing inevitable debates even before the event. I hold as proof of this the very article that you are reading. If it wasn’t for International Blasphemy Day then this article would never have been written.

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The immaculate deception.

September 22, 2009
The Virgin Mary with the angel Gabriel

The Virgin Mary with the angel Gabriel

Jesus of Nazareth was purported to be the son of God. This obviously meant that his mother Mary had to be a virgin at the time of his birth so that he wasn’t born with original sin. The birth of the son of god also had to be virgin birth due to the fact that it would tarnish the point if a human seed was involved. So basically god decided to impregnate Mary and got the angel Gabriel to let her know. Responsible parenting from the off I see.

There are of course some obvious explanations for this so called ‘virgin’ birth but I don’t think that we need to explain them here. What is very interesting and also fairly predictable is the fact that this idea of Immaculate Conception is not unique to Christianity. In Hinduism many of the gods are born in this way and Gautama Buddha’s mother dreamt on the night of his conception that a white elephant with six tusks entered into her right side. After ten lunar months he was born through a slit in his mother’s right side. One can only presume that this was where the elephant had entered.

The ancient fathers and modern theologians like the idea of Immaculate Conception because then they can spout rhetoric of purity while at the same time generating fear in the people. How can the flock ever hope to be pure when they are born tainted by the sin of their parents? This also creates a feeling of self loathing at the natural carnal urges of the faithful.

In Victorian England sex was one of the biggest taboos. In most forms of art, especially literature the subject was treated as if it didn’t exist. A fact that was on the whole detrimental to the art. This may not just be coincidental with the fact that it was also a deeply religious time. Although it was during this time that Darwin published his Origin of Species and many public figures expressed doubt in the church most people were regular church attendees, going at least once every Sunday. The bible was staple reading throughout all of the classes and as a whole the church was a powerful, fear inducing institution.

It would seem from the evidence that the church throughout its history has had a fearful relationship with the female sex. Women have regularly been seen as a corrupting factor and have been suppressed because of this. You only have to look at the abuses of women’s rights that happen regularly in the Islamic Republic of Iran or in Saudi Arabia where, in adherence to the official interpretation of Islamic law women are not permitted to drive. It could be said that the religious have never trusted women since Eve’s betrayal in the Garden of Eden.

I think though the main point of having a figure that is divine within a religion born via a virgin birth is simply down to the claim for purity. It lays a much better case for a divine connection when someone, or someone’s followers can claim that they where born without the intervention of a male hand. It leaves the position of father open. A position that the divine would be the most obvious candidate to fill.

If someone today claimed that they or anybody else was born via Immaculate Conception then they would be covered in scorn and branded either delusional or a liar. At the very best it would be considered spin for whatever movement that they were leading. I haven’t said a religious movement but I have no doubt that anyone claiming virgin birth would be connected to some form of religious group. If such doubt and ridicule is the treatment towards such a claim made now, why then do supposedly intelligent people still believe that this happened two thousand years ago? It would seem that these people may well be deluded or if not then suffering from a massive case of hypocrisy of beliefs.

I wish to make one small final point in the case against God regarding Immaculate Conception and then I will leave the subject for now. Surely if you impregnate a woman and then only tell her after the event this would be considered rape? Just a thought that’s all.