Friday, January 16, 2015

Careful what you ask for

The Pope made some statements recently responding at least in part to the Charlie Hebdo attacks last week.  One quote of his I found particularly telling:

"One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people's faith, one cannot make fun of faith."

As a matter of fact, yes, I can.  Pope Francis, your faith in an invisible sky wizard is ludicrous and the actions of the organization you head are abominable.  See, I just mocked your faith, and what's more you should be extremely glad that I can because the alternatives are much worse for you.  Imagine what the world would look like if no one was allowed to mock other people's faith.

For starters, the statement "God exists" would be banned because it goes against the faith of those who belong to the church of the flying spaghetti monster.  Anything suggesting that a divine being exists who does not have noodly appendages and meatball eyes would be against the law.  Also I would assume that anything suggesting that the flying spaghetti monster exists would also be against the law as it would offend other religions.  Under this world structure virtually any statement that might be construed as religious would be instantly disallowed by someone or other.

Given that scenario I suspect that you do not in fact want statements that mock people's faith or offend religious sensibilities to be banned.  What you actually want is to have the power to tell everyone in the world what they can and cannot say with impunity.  Unsurprisingly the rest of the world isn't too interested in that and once people see that this is truly what you are asking for they will reject it.

This is the reason I reacted so strongly to the Charlie Hebdo attacks last week.  There are a great many very powerful people in the world who manage to get a lot of support behind the idea that they alone should decide what everyone can say and what they cannot because being made fun of is just so *awful*, especially when you are someone with incredible political power and all.  We must all stand up to these lunatics and make it abundantly clear that this will not happen.

That doesn't mean of course that we should all ignore things like the rampant Islamophobia in France, or the serious problem with racism that some of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons have, or the way in which white lives are so much more valued than the lives of people of colour, especially when reporting on events in other countries.  One thing we definitely should do though is condemn attempts to crush free speech in the name of religion regardless of the religion in question.


  1. I have no context to the quote. My initial interpretation reading it here was that if you have faith, provocations, insults and mockery should bounce off of you have faith. People could mock my belief that 2+2 = 4, but it would be meaningless because I believe it so strongly. Mock away!

    Any chance my read of his quote is accurate?

  2. I'm going to venture that your interpretation is incorrect. is my source.