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Allegedly Blasphemous Poster at College Leads to "Hostile Environment" Arguments, Asserted Worry About Effect on Children;

another poster leads to a possible death threat. From the Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio):

Jesus Christ had a homosexual relationship?

Those words, written on a poster above the image of a topless man tenderly kissing Jesus on the neck, angered dozens of students Thursday night at Lorain County Community College....

The sign went up about 4 p.m. in College Center student commons as part of Club Awareness Week, along with many other displays advertising student-run extracurricular organizations....

Questioning religion is fine, but mocking it isn't, [one student] said.

[Senior Amanda] Lucero said the LCCC student handbook agrees, and pointed out a part of the school code that says, "Harassing any person(s) verbally, in writing, by graphic illustration, or physically, including any abuse, defamatory comments, signs or signals intended to mock or ridicule race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin" is not allowed....

Sophomore Dejoune Grantham said the poster is libelous and blasphemous, and in her opinion it isn't protected by the First Amendment.

"I don't want my children walking through here and seeing that. It's filthy," she said.

Another sophomore, Amber Cales, said the poster was in a public place, and it was easily seen by anyone who passed. She said that took away her right as a parent to shield her children from controversial ideas....

A student named Zach Jefferson, who Weaver said is not a member of the atheist group, decided about 7:30 p.m. to take down the poster, but he wouldn't say why.

Laura Nash, president of the Student Senate, said she wasn't surprised at the outrage so many students voiced.

She said anyone offended should write a complaint and submit it to the Campus Life Division or campus security....

To the school's credit, Marcia Ballinger, LCCC's vice president is apparently defending the right to post such material: "In higher education, we certainly respect all viewpoints. There is debate, and there are different perspectives.... Controversy on a college campus from students is something that is inherent to free speech." Moreover, "Campus security guards said offended undergrads voiced complaints for about three straight hours, but the sign remained up because it didn't present a security issue...." Nonetheless, to the school's discredit, the policy does appear to ban "signs ... intended to mock or ridicule race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin" — pretty clearly an unconstitutional restriction on speech at a public college or university. (See also this closely related policy.)

The poster was put up by the local Activists for Atheism club, who apparently don't take the view that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. The club officers' claim is that the poster "wasn't intended to mock religion" but "was meant to stir debate about Christianity by referencing a passage of the Bible that was allegedly cut out by early Christians [--] ... the Secret Gospel of Mark, which was found inscribed in a letter by Greek historian Clement of Alexandria," and which some have read as suggesting a homosexual relationship between Jesus and a man whom he had raised from the dead.

Atheist club president Aaron Weaver also "put up a picture of the prophet Mohammed," and reports that he then "received a death threat in response to the picture, which read, 'With love and missiles.'" (No more details are given, so it's hard to tell whether the picture was just a picture of Mohammed or something pejorative, and it's hard to tell how threatening the letter was.) "He took the picture down, turned over the note to campus security officers and went home."

Thanks to the Religion Clause blog for the pointer.

Deoxy (mail):
2 comments:

-Christianity is fine to mock, but Islam will get you death threats... which apparently work quite well, as they took down that poster. This is not a NEW observation (fairly common, really), just another data point for that.

-"To the school's credit" they allow it to stay up? Allowing intentionally insulting and offensive free speech about Christianity (and many conservative views) is normal for higher institutions. What would be to their credit would be even-handed enforcement. Considering the school's ofifical policy about "mocking religion" (among other things), they should have taken it down, unless they simply don't enforce their own policy against anyone. In short, this is the norm (blatant double-standard), and you are giving them "credit" for it.
8.26.2008 2:01pm
Happyshooter:
So if I understand the school's version of their rules..saying something a protected person doesn't like is illegal, but insulting the christers is cool.

How does a ban on: signs ... intended to mock or ridicule race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin not ban the poster in question?




Silly question, I know. The 'religion' meant by the college regulation does not include the christers, who have no place in public life or on campus.
8.26.2008 2:02pm
njones (mail):
As a Catholic, let me be the first to condemn the College's speech policy and defend the right of the students to display this poster. (Although I'm sure I, personally, would find it distasteful.)

I am of the opinion that more flies are, indeed, caught with sugar, so let the athiests be silly. Why not use this opportunity to explain why the Secret Gospel of Mark isn't properly part of the cannon?
8.26.2008 2:03pm
rmark (mail):
"In higher education, we certainly respect all viewpoints"

Apparently not all higher education agrees

http://www.thefire.org/
8.26.2008 2:06pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Deoxy: To the school's credit, administrators seem to recognize that their policy can't constitutionally be applied here, despite the fact that the speech is likely quite unpopular in the community. Evenhanded enforcement (or any enforcement) of an unconstitutional policy would not be to their credit.

Rmark: I think that the "In higher education, we certainly respect all viewpoints" is partly descriptive -- colleges and universities do have the tendency to be more tolerant of broadly offensive postings on their property than do most other institutions (such as employers, shopping malls, and the like) -- and partly aspirational, with the implication being that the good representatives of higher education respect all viewpoints.
8.26.2008 2:12pm
AntonK (mail):
"In higher education, we certainly respect all viewpoints..."

Yeah? The hell they do!
8.26.2008 2:14pm
Oren:

She said that took away her right as a parent to shield her children from controversial ideas....

Yes, as a parent, you have the right to veto all expressive or educational content that comes within a 20 foot radius of your children. We have been silly for not recognizing that right.
8.26.2008 2:15pm
trad and anon:
Sophomore Dejoune Grantham said the poster is libelous and blasphemous, and in her opinion it isn't protected by the First Amendment.
Sounds like she needs to learn something about the First Amendment. And about libel law.
8.26.2008 2:16pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Some folks think Jesus was gay. Some think he was married. Some think he had an affair with Mary Magdellan. Some think he was single. Some think he never had sexual relations. Some think he is fiction. They all express their opinions. So what?
8.26.2008 2:27pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I am of the opinion that more flies are, indeed, caught with sugar, so let the athiests be silly.


Agreed, the reason people act out like that is for their own sense of self-aggrandizement. They like having people talk about them and the "cause" is merely a means to the end of drawing attention to themselves. It's usually not an effective way of persuading anyone and instead usually has the effect of turning off people from whatever cause it is that you're ostensibly trying to advance.
8.26.2008 2:29pm
Observer:
Why is it to the school's credit that they go against their own policy to support a display of hostility to religion? If a similar (or even far less offensive) display had been done attacking any of the other categories protected under the policy, there is absolute no doubt that the school would not have acted the same way. This selective enforcement of the policy is nothing to be proud of. The school did not chose to take a principle stand for free speech, but just chose not to ban speech that it doesn't consider particularly reprehensive. It would be more worthy of praise for the school to decide not to ban speech that they actually disagree with.
8.26.2008 2:39pm
GV:
The school's policy bans speech only when it is made with the intent to mock or ridicule. Since the intent of the person putting up the poster was neither, I don't understand why anyone thinks this poster violates the school's policy. I also don't know how a poster of Jesus (no matter how tasteless) can "harrass" a student. Offend? Probably. But "harrass"?
8.26.2008 2:40pm
tommears (mail):
Some people have an unfortunate tendency to poke anthills with sticks and then cite their right to free speech. The discussion last week about the Phelps', the gory anti abortion posters, and now this are prime examples. It almost makes me wish sometimes that the founding fathers had inserted a footnote.

"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech (see note 1)..."

(1) Unless the speaker is being an attention grabbing horse's behind
8.26.2008 2:42pm
Steve P. (mail):
Why is it to the school's credit that they go against their own policy to support a display of hostility to religion?

Because it indicates that the school implicitly recognizes that its policy is unconstitutional?
If a similar (or even far less offensive) display had been done attacking any of the other categories protected under the policy, there is absolute no doubt that the school would not have acted the same way.

Cite? Examples of this school responding differently when "attacking any of the other categories protected under the policy"?
8.26.2008 2:46pm
Gary McGath (www):
The school official who's defending the material deserves credit. The school, whose policy forbids "signs or signals intended to mock or ridicule ... religion," does not.
8.26.2008 2:47pm
Soma (mail):
Harassing any person(s) verbally, in writing, by graphic illustration, or physically, including any abuse, defamatory comments, signs or signals intended to mock or ridicule race, religion, age, sex, color, disability, sexual orientation, or national or ethnic origin" is not allowed....

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just isn't the same.....

One's religion is a choice - the other factors are elements beyond personal control....
8.26.2008 2:59pm
wooga:
So, what would happen if somebody put up a poster with a picture of a frowning Jesus saying "Don't be gay or you'll go to Hell!"

The school would send out its own custodians to tear down the posters, then require everyone remotely affiliated with the posting group to attend mandatory sensitivity training, severely reprimand the group's faculty adviser (blocking them from ever holding tenure, naturally), and then expel the person who actually put the poster up. Not to mention the weeks and weeks of righteously indignant school paper editorials and "candlelight vigils."

Does anybody seriously doubt this?
8.26.2008 3:00pm
Waldensian (mail):

Agreed, the reason people act out like that is for their own sense of self-aggrandizement. They like having people talk about them and the "cause" is merely a means to the end of drawing attention to themselves. It's usually not an effective way of persuading anyone and instead usually has the effect of turning off people from whatever cause it is that you're ostensibly trying to advance.

This is, of course, also true of religious people who engage in proselytizing.
8.26.2008 3:02pm
Sarcastro (www):
wooga, it is tragic how the 80% of Americans who are Christian are always so oppressed in hypothetical contrary-to-fact situations.

What's the point of facts when anecdotes and broad generalizations keep my rightous anger up just as well?
8.26.2008 3:10pm
mrl:
Not that it affects the free speech issue in the slightest, but the Secret Gospel of Mark is almost certainly a twentieth-century forgery.
8.26.2008 3:10pm
Sarcastro (www):
Waldensian I know Christians are always putting up art offensive to Atheists!
8.26.2008 3:11pm
Deoxy (mail):

To the school's credit, administrators seem to recognize that their policy can't constitutionally be applied here, despite the fact that the speech is likely quite unpopular in the community.


And see, that's almost certainly a bunch of hogwash; their ENTIRE POLICY (that was referenced) can't constitutionally be applied anywhere. So, we're left with two possibilities:

1) They never enforce it at all; this is the lesser evil, but it still makes one wonder why they have such a policy on the books at all (wishful thinking, perhaps?).

2) They enforce it selectively. This is the (FAR) more likely scenario, and it is actually worse than the unconstitutional speech code itself, as it allows them to CHOOSE whom to silence. Christianity bashing? "Oh, that's just free speech in action." Politely implying that homosexuality is wrong? "CODE VIOLATION!!!!" A speech code, while an unconstitutional restriction on free speech, would at least be (hopefully somewhat close to) content-neutral.

Either way, this is NOT to the school's "credit". Gary McGath's comment is the best thing that could be said, here, and the track record of "higher education" makes even that unlikely (though not impossible).
8.26.2008 3:13pm
wooga:
Sarcastro,

When was the last person thrown in jail, or fined, or at the very least formally disciplined by their school, for making statements offensive to homosexuals? When was the last person so punished for making statements offensive to Christians? Canada and Europe, the 'models' for the US, are leading the way!

Tyranny by the minority is no better than tyranny by the majority.

I say that everyone should just grow up, and learn to live with people offending you. If your religious beliefs, or sexuality, or so frail as to be shattered by mere offense, then you deserve to be ridiculed and mocked mercilessly.
8.26.2008 3:18pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
What it proves is that blowing stuff up and killing people gets you respect.
8.26.2008 3:19pm
KevinM:
Blasphemous, sure. But libelous? Some interesting issues there. For example, the principle that one can't libel the dead has a few quirks under the unique circumstances of this case. Would a cause of action have been tolled for three days, and restored upon the Resurrection? Did those three days count against the limitations period?
8.26.2008 3:20pm
Deoxy (mail):
I heartily second wooga's latest comment.
8.26.2008 3:21pm
Sarcastro (www):
wooga yes! You're such a victim of the minority!

And there should be no right not to be offended! Except for when gays get married, cause that isn't just offensive, it's different somehow! I feels the difference in my heterosexual BONES!
8.26.2008 3:23pm
Waldensian (mail):

Waldensian I know Christians are always putting up art offensive to Atheists!

You bet they are. There ought to be a law!!! :)

Actually, as bad as the art is, I recognize their (God given?) Constitutional right to paint on velvet.

It's just that some Christians also occasionally try to shoehorn religious nonsense into public schools. Violating the Constitution in this fashion is, dare I say,

usually not an effective way of persuading anyone and instead usually has the effect of turning off people from whatever cause it is that you're ostensibly trying to advance.
8.26.2008 3:31pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Deoxy: It's obvious the policy can't be applied to such posters. It's conceivable that it might be applicable to individually targeted racial, sexual, etc. harassment, especially if it's severe or pervasive, and especially if it consists of otherwise unprotected speech, such as threats or fighting words. Cf. R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul. I think the policy would probably be struck down in court as facially overbroad, but it's not completely certain, if the college has been consistently treating it as limited to "harass[ment]" in the legal sense of speech that's severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile environment, especially if it's individually targeted to a particular person.

My guess is that the policy probably hasn't been formally enforced at all; many community colleges are pretty sleepy places. My guess is that it was also adopted because someone in the administration was told that every school needs policies on drunk driving, commercial activity, harassing speech and conduct, fire alarms, gambling, and so on. I don't approve of that, which is why I said the policy is to the school's discredit; it would be better if the school repealed. And if you can point to evidence of selective enforcement, I'd be glad to condemn it. But the school's refusal to order the poster taken down -- even though I expect the poster is highly unpopular not just with many students but probably many staffers and administrators (I have no reason to think that Lorain County Community College is a hotbed of anti-Christian sentiment) as well as many of the politicians to whom the administrators may eventually have to answer -- is quite sound.
8.26.2008 3:32pm
Sarcastro (www):
[Waldensian I stand corrected, though I do feel like even when people try to convert me it's less in your face contemptuous than when atheists try to evangalize me]
8.26.2008 3:34pm
Waldensian (mail):

[Waldensian I stand corrected, though I do feel like even when people try to convert me it's less in your face contemptuous than when atheists try to evangalize me]

I cannot speak to your experiences on that front, obviously. But you may -- may -- have this reaction not because atheists are in fact more "extreme" in their argumentative habits, but rather because our society and culture give religious belief a special status, elevating it to a position where run-of-the-mill criticism is considered particularly impolite or "in your face."

For example, I can walk out into the hallway at work and openly question a coworker about whether Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction, whether Oswald really shot Kennedy, whether Janet Jackson really had a wardrobe failure, etc. But watch the fur fly if I start asking whether someone really believes -- really -- that many people emerged from their graves and walked around town, and were observed by many while doing so, when Jesus died. That's what the book says, you know.

In general, religious evangelizers are calling on people to believe in the supernatural. Atheists typically are asking people to reject irrational beliefs. The latter may well seem more painful. I do not think that it is generally more impolite, but your mileage may well vary.
8.26.2008 4:01pm
Tritium (mail):
You know what I find interesting is that I see no violation of the first amendment.


Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.


Unless I missed part of the article... Is Congress going to school here? As far as religion goes, it does not create a legal obligation to be followed by anyone other than the Federally Established Congress.

And if Christians (having been raised roman catholic) are so insecure about their beliefs that they are truly offended, then they missed the entire reason for Jesus having been here before. No wonder he had to schedule a 2nd appearance, nobody ever seems to fully grasp the concept.
8.26.2008 4:16pm
Waldensian (mail):

As far as religion goes, it does not create a legal obligation to be followed by anyone other than the Federally Established Congress.

Your view is not shared by the Supreme Court, however.
8.26.2008 4:26pm
David Warner:
"In general, religious evangelizers are calling on people to believe in the supernatural. Atheists typically are asking people to reject irrational beliefs."

You're stealing a base here. Replace "irrational" with "supernatural" and you're good.
8.26.2008 4:39pm
Tom (www):
Sigh... oh for the good old days when the words "Congress shall make no law... abriding the freedom of speech" were plainly understood. A local comm. coll. is not Congress and is not making a law.

I know, I know, the mystical incorporation doctrine and all... but we really have gotten away from the real Constitution and what the Founders envisioned, and heck, even what the drafters of the 14th envisioned.

I have to chuckle... "allegedly blasphemous." Lawyers wonder why real people hate them.

Of course, a local college ought to be able to restrict such garbage. Don't like it? Set up your own shop across the street.
8.26.2008 4:45pm
wooga:
Sarcastro, I don't want to think about you feeling your heterosexual bone.
8.26.2008 4:46pm
Malthus:
This is crazy: Jesus is a mythical figure. If he did exist, he didn't look like that picture and sure as hell wasn't a Christian! Indeed, mythical or real, he is the most famous Jew of all time, so who's being insulted here?

Jesus is spinning in his grave!
8.26.2008 4:47pm
loki13 (mail):
David Warner-

The term supernatural (Latin: super "above" + natura "nature") pertains to entities, events or powers regarded as beyond nature, in that they cannot be explained by the laws of the natural world . . .

Irrational: Not rational; unfounded or nonsensical.

Going by the "nonsensical" or, especially, "unfounded" I don't believe a base was stolen. Perhaps the connotation of irrational should be avoided (after all, no one wants to think they're irrational, even though we all are about some things), but all things supernatural all irrational until they can be explained.
8.26.2008 4:50pm
Waldensian (mail):

You're stealing a base here. Replace "irrational" with "supernatural" and you're good.

Okay, I'll bite. What is supernatural about not believing in the supernatural?
8.26.2008 4:50pm
Waldensian (mail):
Oh wait, I've got it. I misread you. I'd be happy enough to say that atheists simply reject the supernatural. I have yet to see a belief in the supernatural that wasn't irrational, however.
8.26.2008 4:53pm
Waldensian (mail):

(after all, no one wants to think they're irrational, even though we all are about some things),

I think that's true. For example, I will occasionally buy a lottery ticket -- even though, if pressed, I would probably agree that it's a stupid thing to do, and that I have no meaningful chance of winning. Yet I derive some sort of happiness from an admittedly irrational hope that I will win.

More and more I have come to believe that large numbers of religious people are taking the same mental approach. I suspect that if pressed, many would admit they don't REALLY believe that dozens of dead people emerged from their graves and walked around Jerusalem, etc. But they have bought their ticket and they are HOPING some material portion of the story is true. And they don't want rationality raining on that parade.

And for what it's worth, I think the odds of me winning the lottery are FAR better than the odds that the Christian God (or any other God, or any other supernatural entity) actually exists.
8.26.2008 5:06pm
one of many:
I have yet to see a belief in the supernatural that wasn't irrational, however.

Pascal's wager? Completely rational.
8.26.2008 5:27pm
common sense (www):
Pascal's wager is only rational if you believe the cost of being a Christian is zero. Once it grows beyond zero, then things can get dicey.
8.26.2008 5:48pm
loki13 (mail):
one of many,

You're kidding, right? Which god did you use pascal's wager for?
8.26.2008 5:51pm
Malthus:
Pascal's wager was not rational, because he presented a false dichotomy: either there is a vengeful god who will send you straight to hell if you don't believe in him or there isn't, so you may as well believe in him.

Of course, the real god is one who sends people straight to hell for insincerity, not lack of belief. Pascal is in hell.
8.26.2008 5:53pm
Suzy (mail):
But that's not Pascal's dilemma, and though nobody can know for certain, he never claimed to have adopted his own belief as a result of the wager.
8.26.2008 6:10pm
Federal Dog:
""In higher education, we certainly respect all viewpoints. There is debate, and there are different perspectives.... Controversy on a college campus from students is something that is inherent to free speech."

I call bullshit. Had the poster condemned homosexuality, those posting it would have been brought up on charges.
8.26.2008 6:53pm
loki13 (mail):
Federal Dog annotated,

I will bring up a superfluous hypothetical that didn't happen, and assume the result to be different, so I can make sure my preconcpetions aren't disturbed.
8.26.2008 6:58pm
Waldensian (mail):

You're kidding, right? Which god did you use pascal's wager for?

Good question.

Of course, like so many great questions, we now know the answer because of South Park: it turns out that you go to Hell unless you're a Mormon. The correct answer is Mormon.
8.26.2008 7:01pm
byomtov (mail):
[Jesus] is the most famous Jew of all time

I thought it was Sandy Koufax.
8.26.2008 7:22pm
Dave N (mail):
This case is just a reminder that obnoxious behavior has Constitutional protection (and I would define "obnoxious" as going out of one's way to offend someone else).

I am curious as to how the atheists identified Mohammed, though--since unlike Jesus there aren't too many depictions (however bad) of him.
8.26.2008 7:31pm
one of many:
You're kidding, right? Which god did you use pascal's wager for? 7th Day Adventist, LDS, Islam - pick any belief which has a significant non-zero benefit attributed to belief and most likely you can beat the odds on benefit versus cost, thus all rational people should have some supernatural belief. It does not matter is it is the correct belief system, it merely matters that the benefits of being belief is greater than the cost multiplied by possibility of being correct. Admittedly the best bet is on the most likely belief system which has a significant benefit for belief, but who wants to spend their entire life handicapping religion? It is rational to take a one-in-a-million bet if the the pay-off is 10 million times the wager, even if it is a one-in-a-million bet. I should note (as Pascal does) that the cost of belief is not zero and does not pretend to be, it is merely that a benefit like salvation from eternal damnation is so high that an infinitesimal probability of being right is enough to make the odds favor it despite the cost. If you really want to game religious belief you might a this life benefit system (Scientology, Satanism and Kabala are good examples) and a conversion to Islam near the end of life followed by martyrdom to ensure a nice afterlife.

Mind you there are some irrational religious beliefs: Paganism has such a small pay-off of belief that it must be accorded a really high probability of being true to be worth the cost (which is also low); Buddhism has high costs and no real pay-off (absorption into the godhead until it splinters again and we get to go through creation from the start) and such a convoluted system of checks where one cannot be sure a future incarnation will not fritter away any enlightenment you obtain in this incarnation that even were the probability of it being correct were unity, a rational person would refuse to belief it; Scientology has such a bad rep that the costs associated with belief outweigh the this life benefits and afterlife benefits to the extent that is is only a rational choice if it has a high probability of being true (whole percents).
8.26.2008 7:39pm
traveler496:
Religion is amazingly effective at getting people (including, admittedly, me at times) to turn off their higher cognitive functions.

Remaking some of the Pascal observations to hopefully hammer the point home - Pascal, had he had his brain in gear, could certainly have realized that one unfounded alternative assumption is no better than another. God who punishes nonbelievers, god who punishes insincerity, god who punishes true believers, god who punishes non child fetishists, cabal of gods who disagree but favor vegetarians every other tuesday, etc. - who's to pick among these? Pascal's wager was non only not rational; it was absurd on the face of it.

A ban on "signs ... intended to mock or ridicule .., religion,.." is equally ridiculous, if interpreted to mean that you can't ridicule my belief X if I declare X to be a tenet of my religion. Since when does my or anyone's belief deserve to be ridicule-free (or deserve any particular deference whatsoever) merely because I choose to put a certain label on it? Ironically most of the same folks who pay lip service to such proscriptions would in practice I believe regard true believers of most world religions (including in many cases their own:-) as functionally insane.
8.26.2008 8:02pm
El Estudiante (mail):
Er, it is inherently offensive to post (or make) any image of Muhammed. In Islam, it is forbidden to make images of people, because we are made in the image of Allah (I'm not supposed to write that name, by the way, and especially without saying "the Merciful, the Almighty" directly thereafter) and any graven image of Allah is blasphemy. Therefore, depicting (or purporting to depict) the Prophet is seriously blasphemous, even if you don't give him a frat t-shirt and a couple of tattoos. I'm surprised that, after this many flaps about cartoons depicting Muhammed in the media, you and your regular commentors don't know that already.

That is why all proper decoration in Mosques, and in Islamic households, is geometric or portrays animals only.

Part of the beauty of getting an expensive liberal arts education is that one should study the rest of the world's religions both to get some perspective and avoid giving offense unintentionally. Pascal's wager indeed: do a little comparative study, folks. At least the Atheists were more or less equal offense on ("conservative" ie fundamentalist) Christianity and Islam - what did they do to offend Hindus, poster made entirely out of beef?

Peace out.
8.26.2008 8:05pm
loki13 (mail):
one of many-

But don't you have to take into account the number of alternative religious beliefs, present and past (and future?), and all the sub-sects, and the different interpretations of those sub-sects?

Personally, I need to go make a sacrifice to Odin. A little more battlefied, and Valhalla here I come! Cuz, um, you know... just in case.
8.26.2008 8:07pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
el.

Islam and Mo are just as eligible for ridicule as any other religion.

Difference is how they're treated in matters of free speech.

And that difference stems from a toxic and specific multiculti and...three guesses.
8.26.2008 8:11pm
Waldensian (mail):

Admittedly the best bet is on the most likely belief system which has a significant benefit for belief, but who wants to spend their entire life handicapping religion?

Um, apparently YOU do.

Meanwhile, which belief system have you determined to be "most likely"? Why?

But there is, in any event, very bad news. You see, it turns out that the REAL supernatural entity controlling the universe (the Great Purple Unicorn) awards salvation to everyone BUT those who, like you, promote Pascalian wagering. Anyone who promotes Pascalian wagering is naughty in the sight of the GPU and is cast into a lake of fire for, like, forever.

So I hate to say it, but you're totally screwed. Repent, and accept his One-Horned Holiness, I beg you. Come to think of it, accepting the GPU is the only rational thing to do, if you.....

[insert sounds of wrathful Great Purple Unicorn]
8.26.2008 8:18pm
Plastic:

The term supernatural (Latin: super "above" + natura "nature") pertains to entities, events or powers regarded as beyond nature, in that they cannot be explained by the laws of the natural world . . .

Irrational: Not rational; unfounded or nonsensical.

Going by the "nonsensical" or, especially, "unfounded" I don't believe a base was stolen. Perhaps the connotation of irrational should be avoided (after all, no one wants to think they're irrational, even though we all are about some things), but all things supernatural all irrational until they can be explained.

Although I find religious arguments are almost always useless, I'll bite on this one.

The base you have skipped is the implicit assertion that all things that cannot now be explained by natural law can be. While utilitarianism is a view shared by many, it is hardly the only one, and certainly not the only rational one.

For example, the conscious mind might one day be completely explained by the laws of the physical world. However, others rationally believe that the mind is independent or only partially dependent on the natural world, thus making it by definition supernatural. Similar questions are debated about quantum states, chaos, and other problems.

In the end you could be right, but it's not a logical necessity that you will be.
8.26.2008 8:20pm
traveler496:
"[Jesus] is the most famous Jew of all time

I thought it was Sandy Koufax."

I'll (reluctantly) go w/ Jesus on this one. Koufax's speed, control and movement were incredible but his saves record can't hold a candle to Jesus's.
8.26.2008 8:22pm
Down from the Ivory Tower:
There is no right not to be offended. The babies complaining about that sign need to grow up.
8.26.2008 8:42pm
loki13 (mail):
Plastic,

The argument for dualism is perhaps the worst one to make. Regardless, resorting to natural law enables us to progress (find an explanation) as opposed to remain in stasis (it cannot be explained). If something cannot be explained, why bother? Why should neuroscientists continue to explore the mystery of the brain, becuase it's supernatural (thought is not amenable to the laws of nature; which it most assuredly is not).

I will accept arguments made by observation that are repeatable, as opposed to arguments that appeal to authority and faith. I have no problem with people of faith; we are all irrational in our own way -- I root for teams simply because they dress in like-colored uniforms and play in a city where I grew up! But I don't want the schools to teach that you have to root for the Red Sox.

They simply have to teach that the Yankees are EVIL.
8.26.2008 9:15pm
Oren:

I root for teams simply because they dress in like-colored uniforms and play in a city where I grew up! But I don't want the schools to teach that you have to root for the Red Sox.

They simply have to teach that the Yankees are EVIL.

Loki wins the thread.
8.26.2008 9:43pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Er, it is inherently offensive to post (or make) any image of Muhammed. In Islam, it is forbidden to make images of people, because we are made in the image of Allah (I'm not supposed to write that name, by the way, and especially without saying "the Merciful, the Almighty" directly thereafter) and any graven image of Allah is blasphemy. Therefore, depicting (or purporting to depict) the Prophet is seriously blasphemous, even if you don't give him a frat t-shirt and a couple of tattoos. I'm surprised that, after this many flaps about cartoons depicting Muhammed in the media, you and your regular commentors don't know that already.

That is why all proper decoration in Mosques, and in Islamic households, is geometric or portrays animals only.
Let me suggest that the absolute prohibition on making images of people is more Sunni than Shi'a, and even so, more Wahhabi than anything. Unless you discount photographs as depictions.

Depictions of Mohamed are a different story, at least so far. But I don't think we can expect to see any blue eyed blond depictions of him, despite both Mohamed and Jesus both presumably being equally Semitic.

But frankly I don't see why an image of Mohamed would be any less blasphemous than calling Jesus a homosexual (at least to many Christians).
8.26.2008 9:53pm
J. Aldridge:
So we're still pretending freedom of speech is not the same found at common law? With such a clueless federal judiciary these silly arguments are going to persist.
8.26.2008 10:30pm
one of many:
Wow, so much interest in religion.

But don't you have to take into account the number of alternative religious beliefs, present and past (and future?), and all the sub-sects, and the different interpretations of those sub-sects? I don't care to handicap them myself, there a few I believe are beyond being chosen rationally as the pay-off is too low, but it would take more effort than I am willing to put forth to decipher which is most likely. You could put the effort to determine it I suppose, but all the indica I've come across don't indicate enough higher probability for any given belief system to determine the most likely true belief. When I compare religions with an infinite payout (salvation from eternal damnation or eternal paradise) probability is not a factor since an infinite reward divided by a finite probability of being correct is still infinity and it takes a better mathematician than I to differentiate degrees of infinity, the only irrational choice for those of us unable to handle the math is to not choose a religion offering an infinite payout.


Um, apparently YOU do.

Meanwhile, which belief system have you determined to be "most likely"? Why?


I should have been clearer, I don't handicap them as to likelihood of being correct. I do evaluate them on two criteria, benefits offered by belief and cost of belief, but that's not quite the same as determining the likelihood of their being correct. Because I don't handicap them it is simpler to assume the same probability of being correct, a value above zero. Of course this is made easier by the introduction of infinite benefit beliefs, which makes all the quibbling about probability meaningless as long as it more than zero (at least for me, see the above). I've varied my beliefs throughout my life but the Islam/martyrdom option seems to be gaining is appeal as I grow older, although I'm not sure what I would I would do with the raisins.
8.27.2008 12:35am
Randy R. (mail):
"Questioning religion is fine, but mocking it isn't, [one student] said."

I'd love to know where this student draws the line between questioning religion and mocking it.

"I don't want my children walking through here and seeing that. It's filthy," she said."

One man is kissing another man tenderly on the neck is 'filthy'? Goodness gracious! I wonder what she thinks of ball players patting each others' butts.

Sometimes people only see what they want to see....
8.27.2008 1:09am
ReaderY:
I have to say...

If sexual jokes that women would find offensive are "hostile environment" sexual harassment, why wouldn't religious jokes that religious people find offensive be hostile environment religious harassment? I personally think political correctness has gone way to far, but I can also understand why people on the right would want to get a piece of the action and take advantage while they can.

Also, the issue of subjective vs. objective standards follow. If sexual harassment is determined from the point of view of a reasonable or average woman, religious harassment would properly be determined from the point of view of an average member of the denomination. Obviously, a problem with subjective standards is that they give the side controlling the standards an incentive to feel offended in order to be able to claim they are being harassed and have the power that flows from that ability.

There was a time when there white people genuinely felt harassed (in the sense that they had a genuine subjective emotional experience of offense by someone they subjectively felt was intending to offend them) at the sight of a black person in the front of the bus. That experience can remind us that people can all too easily feel offended even as they are persecuting. Too loose or blind a standard for what constitutes "harasssment" can promote such persecution if harassment means nothing more than "my feelings were hurt" and if claims of harassment are not subjected to some measure of objective scrutiny.
8.27.2008 1:17am
Cornellian (mail):
I suppose if someone raises you from the dead, you do kind of owe him.
8.27.2008 2:07am
David Schwartz (mail):
one of many: It is rather amusing that you defend as rational a principle that can defend any action at all. Perhaps god only lets people who wear green hats all the time into heaven. The payoff is infinite, the probability is finite, the cost if wrong is finite, therefore it's rational.

Perhaps god only admits those who murder babies into heaven. The cost during your life is finite, right? The payoff is infinite, right?

Even considering the probability of something totally arbitrary is irrational. The only rational way to deal with the arbitrary is to point out that it's arbitrary.
8.27.2008 2:39am
one of many:
Of course it's rational M. Swartz, that's the whole point of Pascal's Wager, to be amusing and make people think about what rationality means. There are various areas where rationality just doesn't work; religion, love, family and so on. If people were strictly rational then everyone would choose a religious belief which promises infinite reward, that they don't is one of the ways we can tell that people are not strictly rational.

Rationality has no problem with arbitrariness, arbitrary things are part of existence and we deal with arbitrary things on a rational basis every day. Goodness, we wouldn't exist as we know existence if certain arbitrary values like the speed of light or the mass of the electron or the number of dimensions were not what they are. I find it hard to believe that you consider all of modern science which is based upon totally arbitrary things like is irrational, perhaps you just justify why modern science is irrational. Reason is a technique of dealing with the arbitrary existence we find ourselves in, but it is not the only technique or even the best technique for all circumstances.
8.27.2008 3:30am
NickM (mail) (www):
First, you're all wrong. Heaven Is for Presbyterians.

Second, what sort of atheist argument is "Jesus was gay"? Doesn't atheism necessarily reject the idea that there was a real Jesus who raised people from the dead (regardless of whether he had sex with them)?

Nick
8.27.2008 5:07am
Waldensian (mail):

I've varied my beliefs throughout my life but the Islam/martyrdom option seems to be gaining is appeal as I grow older, although I'm not sure what I would I would do with the raisins.

Oh my God (so to speak). I was totally convinced you were serious. Touche.
8.27.2008 9:48am
Happyshooter:
Sigh... oh for the good old days when the words "Congress shall make no law... abriding the freedom of speech" were plainly understood. A local comm. coll. is not Congress and is not making a law.

Assuming that the magic incorporation never happened...I would bet a dollar without even checking that the state con has the same clause.
8.27.2008 9:58am
M O'Brien (mail):
The Iranians are currently building a giant statue of Mohammed. Depicting him isn't against Muslim law. (In some circumstances, anyway.)

And the Secret Gospel of Mark is such a forgery, it's funny. The forger practically signed it, even while using it to enhance his own academic career and crush the arguments of those who disagreed with him. Nothing like making up the evidence that inconveniently doesn't exist.
8.27.2008 10:25am
Randy R. (mail):
What I think is sad is that we now have a society in which any degree of affection between two men is considered homosexual. In other cultures, like in Italy, spain, or Greece, men can hold hands, kiss, put their arms around each other, and it isn't considered homosexual at all. (Though of course sometimes it could be.)

I don't think it's healthy for anyone to consider affection, even kissing, to be 'filthy', but that's what our homophobic friends believe, apparently.
8.27.2008 10:50am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Randy. Several years ago, a Mexican friend--after several hours celebrating the wedding of his daughter--grabbed me and kissed my neck, saying he would always have a place for me in his heart because I took his children. That is, we have swapped kids with them for varying lengths of time, such as a summer or school year.
Nobody would think that was a homosexual approach.
So, you're right...when it's not relevant.
However, do you think the poster of Jesus getting a kiss was in any way designed to reflect the same thing? Or was it designed to annoy the fundies? Who'd bother with the first?
8.27.2008 11:21am
Plastic:

The argument for dualism is perhaps the worst one to make.

I did not intend to argue for (or against) dualism in any way, but I do assert that it is both a rational and a supernatural theory. I've heard some monist theories of consciousness that are supernatural as well, but that's well outside the scope of this discussion.


Regardless, resorting to natural law enables us to progress (find an explanation) as opposed to remain in stasis (it cannot be explained). If something cannot be explained, why bother? Why should neuroscientists continue to explore the mystery of the brain, becuase it's supernatural (thought is not amenable to the laws of nature; which it most assuredly is not).

Equating supernatural theories to stasis is a straw man arguement. I agree that we should always to try and explain things through natural law, but instead of remaining in stasis we explain the rest through supernatural law. That's what we do regularly, whether we term it that God holds the stars in the heavens or that some mysterious dark matter and energy works invisibly.

The brain is certainly based on many natural laws, and even if we determine that there is a supernatural mind or that the brain has some supernatural aspects, that's no reason to stop studying it. One of the things I find most infuriating about both science and religion is their tendency to call some topic closed. Do they have some perfect knowledge or does some number of people in agreement make it so? No! Every observation or interpretation we make is influenced by our limited faculties and factors specific to that time and place and needs to be re-evaluated with each new datum.

I'm starting to rant, so I'll just leave it with one last observation: Cheering for a team you were raised to support is rational, it's baseball that's irrational.
8.27.2008 12:54pm
Waldensian (mail):

One of the things I find most infuriating about both science and religion is their tendency to call some topic closed. Do they have some perfect knowledge or does some number of people in agreement make it so? No! Every observation or interpretation we make is influenced by our limited faculties and factors specific to that time and place and needs to be re-evaluated with each new datum.

In general I agree, but: this same argument is frequently trotted out by conspiracy theorists or other whackos who argue we should simply be "open minded" about whether, e.g., the Holocaust actually happened.
8.27.2008 5:07pm
Hoosier:
This debate about "rationalisty" and "reason" suffers from a big epistmological problem: Logic cannot dictate anything if is does not start with premises. reason is a way of using logic to derive conclusions from premises, not a way of deriving the premises upon which one bases one's reasoning.

For example, it is just wrong to say that Auinas was not "rational." Given the premises of his day, he was indeed the soul of reason, and his conclusion followed logically from his assumptions.

The problem now is that most people don't recognize that their basic premises on questions of religion, ethics, virtues, and so on are based on what G. E. Moore would label "intuitionism." There's no real reason behind thinking X is just and Y unjust, except that this seems right to you.

Religion can provide such an anchor. Some will object that the choice of religion is just another "intuition." I think MacIntyre has a really good response to this. But I don't want to get into a 600-comment debate about Catholicism. Again. So I'll stick with the via negativa outlined above.
8.27.2008 5:53pm
Hoosier:
Apologies. I tend to touch-type, and my left hand is almost totally numb. I'm gonna claim it was a polo accident(for insurance purposes.)
8.27.2008 6:11pm
Plastic:
Waldensian:
And we should look carefully at their arguement and give clear reasons why we reject it. When new evidence or arguments appear, they should be dealt with the same way. How thoroughly Holocaust deniers and their like need to be debunked is debatable, but even with them I think we should go further than just saying "You're a kook"

Hoosier:
That's why we need to clearly identify our premises, so that it's clear whether they are invalidated or validated by new data. While premises can't be logically derived, they can be evaluated logically.


There's no real reason behind thinking X is just and Y unjust, except that this seems right to you.

Perhaps, perhaps not. A surprising amount of ethical similarity is found across many cultures and religions. Perhaps it's all just similar intuition, or perhaps there's some genetically or supernaturally based moral standard we all conform to to some extent.
8.27.2008 7:45pm
Hoosier:
Plastic: Can you give me an example of a moral premise that is validated by data? I'm honestly not clear on what you mean, and I suspect I'm missing something.

"A surprising amount of ethical similarity is found across many cultures and religions. Perhaps it's all just similar intuition, or perhaps there's some genetically or supernaturally based moral standard we all conform to to some extent."

This still leaves open the question of "Why the similarities?"; though I suspect some here will argue with the empirical element of this argument. If it is soemthing inborn--due to adaptive advantages of acting in certain ways--then this common "code of behavior" would be a natural fact. That doesn't morally oblige you or me to continue to act that way. The step of taking any generality as a RULE is not something that can come from observation.
8.27.2008 8:09pm
Waldensian (mail):

And we should look carefully at their arguement and give clear reasons why we reject it. When new evidence or arguments appear, they should be dealt with the same way.

Of course, these rules generally are not applied to religious belief. I'm still trying to figure out what new evidence or arguments would convince the Pope that, say, the Holy Trinity is a fiction.
8.28.2008 12:33am
Randy R. (mail):
Aubrey: "However, do you think the poster of Jesus getting a kiss was in any way designed to reflect the same thing? Or was it designed to annoy the fundies? Who'd bother with the first?"

I was talking in generalities, not to this specific situation. Apparently, it was designed to annoy the fundies.

Apparently, it succeeded.

"One of the things I find most infuriating about both science and religion is their tendency to call some topic closed. "

I know of no area of science that calls any topic 'closed.' Sure, the law of gravity is closed, but if you come up with some hard evidence that gravity isn't working according to the scientific laws, then you will find scientists very interested in your evidence. But until then, the science is settled to the satisfaction of every scientist on the planet.

As for any other subject of science, researchers have always been willing -- as a group -- to modify existing theories as new evidence comes in. Indeed, this is exactly what makes it different from any belief system. They start with evidnece, and construct a theory to explain it. Religion is the other way around, by constructing a belief system, and then making everything else revolve around that.
8.28.2008 12:54am
ReaderY:
One sure thing we know about logic: It's never been proved.

People just buy it on faith.
8.28.2008 12:58am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
So. Anything further on the death threat?

Didn't think so.
8.28.2008 9:03am
Tragic Clown Dog (www):
Apart from the free speech issue, a few commenters have mentioned an important point: many, if not most, scholars deny that the Secret Gospel of Mark ever existed, and nearly all of those who do accept its existence acknowledge that at best it's a forgery from the 2nd century based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. That atheists would be credulous towards such a source shows that their skepticism is very selective.

Also, a few people have suggested that Jesus is mythological or never existed. There are no scholars in the relevant disciplines who believe this -- indeed, Jesus' crucifixion is generally considered one of the central facts of human history. The question is whether he is who Christians claim him to be, and whether he did the things the New Testament records. But to suggest he never existed is on the same intellectual level as saying that the moon landings were fake.
8.28.2008 9:04am
Hoosier:
Tragic Clown Dog

Your right on both counts. Scholars don't accept "SecretMark" as a legitimate document. The sense that the entire letter that "reveealed" it was a forgery has also gained broader acceptance in the alst few years.

To suggest that Jesus never existed raises the problem that Jewish (i.e., non-Christian) historian Josephus Flavius says that he did exist. In addition, the Pauline Epistles that scholars accpet as legitimately the writing of Paul of Tarsus (the so-called Sevne undisputed Epistles) came soon after Jesus's death. Whether you think Jesus was who Paul thought Jesus was, you can't deny that he was writing to communities which accpted his existence. Since so many of these people would have been contemporaries of Jesus, it would take a rather clever mind to explain how they could have been wrong about this.

Again, none of this suggests that one must believe in Jesus's divintiy as a reult of the historical record. But as to the existence of an influential teacher, Joshua bar-Joseph, we have enough evidence.
8.28.2008 11:23am
Hoosier:
"Seven undisputed"
8.28.2008 11:24am
Plastic:

Can you give me an example of a moral premise that is validated by data? I'm honestly not clear on what you mean, and I suspect I'm missing something.

Sure, here's a quick one:
Premise A: Events we clearly see with our eyes is indisputable fact.
Argument: I clearly saw from where I was sitting that the ball was in bounds. Therefore, due to Premise A, the ball was indisputably in bounds.
Data disputing premise A: Optical illusions such as Parallax suggest that what we see with our eyes is not indisputable fact.

But really, you can take any absurd statement as a premise and build meaningless arguments from it and evaluating a premise is often very difficult.


That doesn't morally oblige you or me to continue to act that way. The step of taking any generality as a RULE is not something that can come from observation.


That depends on how you define "morally oblige". There will be consequences to acting against the morals of those around you at least on earth, even if not in an afterlife. Also, we make general rules from observation all the time: The sun rises in the morning. Most of human knowledge comes from observation, even as flawed as it is.

Waldensian:
Since the Pope is the mouthpiece of God, all it would take is just him telling himself that the Holy Trinity is fiction and he would have to believe it. So just break out a voice synthesizer and rewrite whatever parts you want.
8.28.2008 12:43pm
Hoosier:
Plastic: I'm not trying to be difficult here. But I don't see how your example gives us any sort of moral premise, let alone one invalidated by data.

No one is arguing that it is impossible to derive premises from observation. (No one on VC, that is. Postmodernists are so radically skeptical that . . . But back to the issue.) But even the fact my observing a man shoot another man with my own eyes doesn't provide me with any way of making a moral assessment of that act. I need to accept some non-empirical rule if I am to judge what I observe.
8.28.2008 1:45pm
Plastic:
Hoosier:
My apologies, I didn't notice the qualifier you had on the word premise. Here's another example with a moral basis.

Premise B: It is always morally wrong to kill another person
Argument: Bob killed someone, therefore he was morally wrong regardless of the reason.
Data disputing premise B: It is morally right to kill someone when they present a real threat to your life or another's.

I think what you're getting at, though, is how do we each decide what is moral or immoral, which is in fact a subset of the perplexing question of how does a person make any decisions at all. How does a person decide between chocolate and strawberry ice cream? The interesting thing is that so many people agree on the basics of morals, however that personal decision is arrived at.
8.28.2008 3:09pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ya. So. The death threats? Hostile environment?
8.28.2008 8:04pm
JustPassingBy (mail):
Hm. Too bad they took down the Muhammed one.
The take-away should be that one should kill or arrange to have killed any person who makes such death threats. Maybe publish their picture and a reward for the demise of same?
There is no freedom without a willingness to defend it.
8.29.2008 4:23am