What Was I Thinking?

February 22, 2006
It Needs To Be Said

Fuck Mohammed.

I'm not well versed in the history of the man. I don't know what his personality was like. I know he's the reason Islam, and therefore radical Islam, exists. That's enough reason to despise him right there. But that's not why I said what I just said.

There are people in the world who seriously believe that fredom of speech does not include the right to insult or offend someone based on religion. In fact, that is exactly what it includes. I am free to say anything I want to anyone I can get to listen about any subject I choose, as long as the act of speaking does not cause actual harm to the listener.

Falsely causing a public panic is harm.
Spreading false information that damages someone's reputation is harm. Specifically, libel or slander.

Spreading true information that damages someone's reputation is not harm. Well, it is, but it's not actionable. Truth is an absolute defense.
Offending someone is not harm.
Insulting one's religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, height, weight, intelligence, or social skill is not harm. It's just very, very annoying.

My opinions are mine. If you disagree with them, that doesn't make me wrong. Opinions cannot be wrong because they contain no factual content. If I say, "I think all muslims are pig-fucking terrorists with no sense of humor," that's my opinion, not a statement of fact. Taken as a statement of fact, it is demonstrably false in this case, which is why I chose it. But it isn't fact; it's opinion. You may hate that I think that, but you can't stop me from saying so.

I don't care how far your nose gets bent out of shape by what I say. You have as muich right to get pissed off by what I say as I have to say it. I can't force you to listen to me, and you can't force me not to talk. You do not have the right to shut off my rightful modes of communication because you don't like how I use them. Unless I'm using a form of medium that you own, in which case you can choose whether to transmit or not the things I say in your particular publication. I do not have the right to have my letter printed in your newspaper if you don't want it there. You do not have the right to prevent me from writing that letter, or from sending it to a different newspaper that will publish it. Or from mailing it individually to all of your subscribers, if I wanted to.

I have an absolute right to be an annoying bastard. You have an absolute right to walk away rather than letting me annoy you. It's why America works. We're a nation of contrarian assholes who had to find a way to live together without killing each other.

If you can't bear the agony of my saying something that offends you, that's your problem, not mine. Grow a thicker skin. Suck it up. Grow a pair. Wear a helmet.

Fuck Mohammed.


Offended by a cartoon of Mohammed, but not offended by Mohammed Atta. That's my issue.

Posted by: Tanya at February 22, 2006 03:31 PM

May I suggest that you define a 'Comment Pending' template?

Posted by: Tanya at February 22, 2006 03:32 PM

Huh. Well, I can accept the presence of F-bombs, but your first-(second-?)paragraph argument is significantly iffy.

"I know he's the reason Islam, and therefore radical Islam, exists. That's enough reason to despise him right there."

This is, as you have stated, opinion, but it can be easily extended to decry any/all religion. For example, Timothy McVeigh was a devout Catholic, so this argument could lead directly to "F__ Jesus."

(Wait. Does Godwin's law apply to anyone besides Hitler and Nazis?) (I think I just briefly confused you with Howard Tayler.) (Come to think of it, I can't recall any examples of radical Judaism or Jews.)

Posted by: Bryce Herdt at February 22, 2006 03:35 PM

"May I suggest that you define a 'Comment Pending' template?"

Yeah, I could do that. If I knew how to do that.

Posted by: David at February 22, 2006 06:08 PM

Tanya, good point.

Bryce, Timothy McVeigh didn't found Catholicism.

Also, the use of expletives in this case was deliberate. The idea was to express in a minimum of words exactly what they don't want us to say. If the internet and the Inquisition had existed at the same time, and the same discussion of speech vs. religion came up, I would say the same thing about Jesus. Or Buddha, or Joseph Smith, should the situation warrant it.

Honestly, I have no idea what the big Mo' was like. Maybe he liked puppies, rainbows, and representative government. Actually, I heard he didn't like dogs, so bad example, but anyway. I'm not taking a shot at him so much as I'm defying those who say I can't say such things.

And I can do that here because I know the odds are very small that they'll ever find out and come kill me for it. I'm not stupid.

Posted by: David at February 22, 2006 06:26 PM

Testing the "trusted commenters" setting. Tanya and Bryce, you're both on the list. I'll add others as they drop by.

Posted by: David at February 22, 2006 06:29 PM

"Trusted commenters," eh? Neato.

To rebut your rebuttal, neither did these radical Islamists found Islam. (I should add that I don't see how your rebuttal responds directly to my example. Is that because I didn't respond directly to the main point of your entry?)

To respond to the parts about free speech, which was really you main point; Amen.

Posted by: Bryce Herdt at February 23, 2006 11:25 AM

You know what, Bryce? I think I didn't think your comment through thoroughly enough before responding. I was going to walk us through my thought process, but in preparation for that I saw that what you were saying wasn't what I thought you said. So, yeah, my initial flippant reply was non-informative. I wasn't trying to blow you off.

However, I stand by the idea that if a belief system causes widespread misery and destruction, the founder of that belief system bears some responsibility, by the same mechanism in which good results reflect well upon the founder.

See also my unending and implacable animosity toward Elron Hubbard.

Also, the trusted commenter thing doesn't do what I expected it to yet. I'm working on it.

Posted by: David at February 23, 2006 02:38 PM

Hmmm. "If a belief system causes widespread misery and destruction, the founder of that belief system bears some responsibility."

Given the number of despicable things done over the last 1700-odd years in the name of Christ, I'd say that "Fuck Jesus" would remain an equally proper statement (moreso if one assumes omniscience to Jesus and the rest of the Trinity).

One could retort that those misdeeds -- pogroms, witch burnings, stamping out of heresies, the religious civil wars of the Reformation era, the Spanish Inquisition, just to name some more famous examples -- were done for reasons other than Jesus' teachings, and that those teachings were only used as a "cover" ... but the same could be (and is) claimed for Islam and Mohammed.

That said -- free speech includes saying "Fuck Jesus," regardless of whether you're speaking rationally or defensibly or not.


"Come to think of it, I can't recall any examples of radical Judaism or Jews."

The more rabid believers in "Greater Judea" in Israel, along with some ADL types who have been convicted of bombings, probably qualify. But it is a much smaller list.

Posted by: *** Dave at February 24, 2006 12:15 PM

*** Dave, I can't argue with what you said. I agree.

I was thinking about this over lunch, based on something VodkaPundit wrote. Maybe the peace-and-love styling of Christianity is the aberration, brought about by looking back regretfully at two millennia of horrors it brought down on the human race.

If a person believes without evidence, then there is no mechanism for that person to regulate that belief. He can't say, "I believe this because of that." He has no conceptual anchor except other believers, and there's a reason "holier than thou" is an insult. He's adrift, and charged particles tend to drift toward the poles. Since he cannot logically defend his belief, he is forced to defend it emotionally. "This is true. If you don't believe it, you are wrong, and therefore evil." That way lies fanaticism. If the believer accepts that the other person might be right, then it follows that he is himself wrong. Given the amount of importance that a believer places on his belief, even entertaining the notion that the belief is erroneous is unthinkable. Heresy. Blasphemy.

Christianity has become, if I may, enlightened. They say, nowadays, "This is true. If you don't believe it, then I won't try to make you. Enjoy hell." Not perfect, but better. But, as a general rule, believers don't have a reason to make that conceptual leap. Evolution requires stress.

In the time of Torquemada, I'm sure that if the word had been coined yet lots of people would have been saying, "Fuck Jesus." At the time, they would have had a point. And then they would have gotten their tongues cut out, which only reinforced the point.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can look back at the long history of butchery attached the Christianity and understand that it all eventually worked out pretty well. The ideas that led to the butchery have been weeded out or modified into relative harmlessness. The societies in which it is the dominant religion tend to have the happiest, safest, free-est, most educated, richest citizens, although in many cases that is also partly due to the fact that the phrase "dominant religion" doesn't mean the same thing in those societies as elsewhere.

If muslims can clean up their act and become tolerant of the infidels, stop trying to kill everyone who disagrees with them, including each other, and become useful and productive members of the human race, then maybe cursing the name of their founder would become something I'd want to apologize for.

I won't hold my breath.

For emphasis, I'd like to reiterate that the original post is a free speech thing, not a bash religion thing. Nothing in this comment should be considered a deliberate insult to anyone.

By the way, ***Dave, my comments are wonky right now. I'm doing sort of a manual moderation deal. Your first comment did get through, so you didn't have to repost it. You're just going to see that error.

Posted by: David at February 24, 2006 02:36 PM

Checked back here (after I saw the same Pending Template error on the Galactica post) to see if it got through. :-)

I think what's happened with Christianity and the West is that we've managed to disentangle the Official Christian Ideology -- the Church -- from the State. By and large, religion and politics don't mix well, and folks end up compromising the principles of each for the other the more they are one and the same. So where the State has to worry about the Church, then legal mechanisms get distorted by dogmatic dictates. Similarly, where the Church has to worry about the State, then morality gets muddied up by the compromises of realpolitik.

The West has managed to break that model, for the most part, and, for the most part, that's a good thing. (Where alternate ideologies have moved in to take Christianity's place, such as Communism or National Socialism or -- well, fill in your -ism of choice), we've seen the same sort of Bad Effects. To the extent that Western government has become largely pragmatic, if still guided by some large, vague, sectarian principles (freedom, compassion, whatever), tolerance of religious differences has flourished. Which is a good thing. And, I hope, not an aberration.

The Moslem world, to generalize, has not yet gotten to that point. So what is Religiously Imperative becomes Politically Imperative. And, to the extent that political power is occasionally wielded less-than-scrupulously, what is Politically Imperative becomes Religiously Imperative.

Here's hoping they get their act together (or we can help them do so) before that clash becomes still more bloody, because the next *real* "crusade" isn't going to do anyone any good.

Posted by: *** Dave at February 26, 2006 04:12 PM