March for Free Expression

The next phase

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Labi Siffre

A lot of people have been asking for Labi Siffre's speech. We'll be making other speeches available too, but for the moment, here is Labi's:
Transcript of the “March for Free Expression” speech given by Labi Siffre (Trafalgar Square 25/03/06)

The texts for my speech are taken from my blog in poetry form: “Labi Siffre – Poetry Into The Light”


it matters little that something is true, or not
till someone says you must live a certain way
because they believe something is true, or not

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw has said, "There is freedom of speech, we all respect that. But there is not any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously inflammatory. We have to be very careful about showing the proper respect.

Well, I say, not all beliefs are worthy of respect. Racist beliefs, homophobic beliefs, sexist beliefs, beliefs claiming the inferiority of the disabled, and claims to knowledge of the existence of a God, none of these are worthy of respect.

I reject the craven philosophies, “I am sincere ... so I must be right”
and “I am offended ... so you must stop”.

When someone says, “I know God exists and so, you must behave in a certain way: that is offensive, insulting, inflammatory and unworthy of respect. But I would not campaign to ban their right to proclaim their beliefs, no matter how offensive I judge those beliefs to be.

I stand here able to speak in this way because a lot of people, many of whom would not have approved of me, died, so that I could have the right of “freedom of expression”. I have a duty to defend that right they gave their lives for.

To begin with the lie, “I know god exists” makes you an extremist.

*

When anyone attacks, by insisting that their dishonest and offensive claims to knowledge of “god” be “precious and sacred” to me

i will oppose your vacuous regal prose,
and them, vigorously

*

Consider : it is impossible to blaspheme
without proof of god’s existence

Consider : if you apologise
when you have nothing
to apologise for

of what value are your apologies
when you do
have something to apologise for

Consider : Christianity, Islam, Sikhism,
Judaism, Hinduism, the worship of
the little green goblin from the planet absurdity
none of these is a country
none of these is an ethnicity

they are political philosophies
used to persuade or tell people
how they should live

to criticize, ridicule, lampoon
or insult them, or the belief in them,
is not racist

And finally, consider :
In an age when the most powerful man on the planet (armed with weapons of mass destruction) by his own admission believes he receives instruction directly from God

In an age when Christian believers in “Rapture” and Islamic believers in “the return of the hidden Imam” believe it right to speed us to salvation by promoting the chaos and destruction of the apocalypse

In such an age, not only do we have a right to challenge, criticize, caricature and satirize Muhammad, Jesus, Yahweh and other theistic concepts ... we have a duty to do so.



http://www.intothelight.info/

ozz@intothelight.info

22 Comments:

Blogger mymind said...

hi i was wondering wots the next public do?

11:14 am  
Blogger St George said...

"In such an age, not only do we have a right to challenge, criticize, caricature and satirize Muhammad, Jesus, Yahweh and other theistic concepts ... we have a duty to do so."

We have already done our duty challenging, criticising, caricaturing and satirizing Jesus. He is an easy target.

Doing the same to others is somehow deemed 'racist' in our society as we are encouraged to 'celebrate' these other deities otherwise the 'liberal' establishment will be on our backs.

However did we get into this straightjacket?

11:15 am  
Blogger FreeSpeech said...

My god, the Little Green Stone-Eater revealed to me that he particularly likes the last paragraph of the poem/speech. So do I.

11:40 am  
Blogger mymind said...

theese are some of the "problems"mainstream muslims worry about when it comes to daubters reformers of there religion
its pretty interesting
http://salafalsaleh.blogspot.com/2006/03/ahbash-exposed.html
on the other side nazi connexions ?

http://mymind-nazimuft.blogspot.com/

12:14 pm  
Blogger mostazaf said...

"In such an age, not only do we have a right to challenge, criticize, caricature and satirize Muhammad, Jesus, Yahweh and other theistic concepts ... we have a duty to do so."

heh heh heh, now we are getting somewhere. Looks like some people can actually think.

BTW, turkey Muhammad was not and is not a "theistic concept". He was a real guy with a real dick (oops, sorry about that), who killed, suckered upto, and screwed real people.

Now are we going to see the Motoon gallery? Where and when? Still waiting. Are there any more negotiations with MAC on the format of the gallery? Like if a Muslim shows up and claims offense, how many times are we supposed to genuflex? In what form are we to apologize so that Muslim fanatics take a liking for free speech?

Just wondering.

12:57 pm  
Blogger FreeSpeech said...

One of the reasons for the necessity of free speech is the view that reconciliation is made with people, not with issues, and that there cannot be a reconciliation with an issue, and that the issue must be called by its name and laid open, and that avoiding to do so will perpetuate or repeat the issue.

The issue at hand is terrorism, mind you, not cartoons - the cartoons call a spade a spade.

Free speech is a prerequisite. Therefore not negotiable.

(The above concept is old, and western, and possibly christian. )

1:14 pm  
Blogger FreeSpeech said...

"In what form are we to apologize so that Muslim fanatics take a liking for free speech?"

Sura 48:29
http://www.submission.org/suras/sura48.html

and not the Golden Rule
http://www.teachingvalues.com/goldenrule.html
Identify the twisted definition on the Golden rule page, then discuss. ;-)

1:21 pm  
Blogger FreeSpeech said...

Peter, how about contacting these people?

http://www.aynrand.org/

1:49 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

From the MAC site I found this posting:

I sent the following letter to the president of New York University in response to your attempt to throttle free speech:

Dear President Sexton:

I am deeply dismayed by the New York University's decision to close a student organization’s discussion of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy to the general public and severely limit the number of students who may attend the event.

Realize what is taking place at a prestigious American intellectual institution under your watch. A university is a realm of ideas, yet the ideas examining the philosophic foundation of free speech rights as they relate to an important international controversy are being squelched in order to appease the sensitivities of those who disagree with the material being discussed. Rather than defend free speech, the university is attacking the very principles that allow it to exist and taking a position that severely curtails its ability to fulfill its mission.

One wonders what comes next. Will certain art be forbidden, because it offends the sensibilities of its critics? Will unpopular political views be taken off the table as well?

On the eve of the war in Iraq, I took part in a contentious debate over US policy with a peace studies professor at George Mason University, and there, GMU President Alan Merten personally thanked me, saying that such a debate "is the reason we have universities." Yet NYU's seeming position is to hold that the opposite as true, and that proponents of controversial ideas should check their minds at the door.

I call upon you to correct the mistakes that your university is making in falling to defend free speech rights. If not, I will simply do everything within my power to highlight your failure to act as the cowardly failure it would be.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Provenzo
Chairman
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
http://www.capitalismcenter.org

4:27 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:11 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

Crusader, you said:
"We have already done our duty challenging, criticising, caricaturing and satirizing Jesus. He is an easy target."
Words of wisdom. How pathetic that we try at all cost to vilify and denigrate a man (and it does not matter in the slightest whether one believes that he was the Messiah or just an extraordinary man), who represented one of the highest moral standards in history (and even the most extremist secularist cannot deny this) of leadership, in the name of the very odd idea of bringing all religious leaders to the same ethical level. I find it quite disgusting.
Will someone please tell me what their problem with Jesus is?
I am waiting in anticipation (of total silence).
What is your problemn with the man called Jesus Christ? Mind you I said THE MAN and not God.

7:13 pm  
Blogger the void said...

Peter Tatchell's speech is available here

with obligatory sarky comments

1:19 pm  
Blogger extabgrad said...

"How pathetic that we try at all cost to vilify and denigrate a man..., who represented one of the highest moral standards in history (and even the most extremist secularist cannot deny this)...I find it quite disgusting.
Will someone please tell me what their problem with Jesus is?"

From the book of Matthew alone:

3:10: "every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."

3:12: "he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire"

5:29-30: "And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell."

8:12: "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

10:15: "Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city."

10:28: "fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell."

10:34-35: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."

25:41: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels"

See also 15:4-7, 18:8-9, 22:12-13, 24:37, 24:50-51, 25:30.

The Biblical Jesus is every bit as dogmatic and intolerant as every other cult leader in history. Anything he said of any value had already been far better, less ambiguously, and less conditionally articulated by philosophers and religions across the globe. To proclaim him as a representation of the highest moral standards in history is to spit on history's great reformers. Did Jesus free the slaves? Did Jesus empower women? Did Jesus legalise homosexuality? Did Jesus encourage free speech?

No. Jesus' rules were 1)Love God, then 2)Love others. God before people. That says it all really.

Joss
tabtasm.blogspot.com

1:50 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

Extabgrad, the first quote refers to what John The Baptist (and not Jesus) said:
"John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.' "[a]
4John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11"I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

I am at work so the rest of my reply later

3:16 pm  
Blogger extabgrad said...

Polish, I can hardly see how a religious debate on this comments page can be practical. Feel free to email me through my profile, I tried to do so to you but couldn't find your email.

It is irrelevant what possible interpretations you may have for Jesus' seeming intolerance, it only matters that it seems to be intolerance, and this completely rules out your contention than Jesus' position as most moral man in history is indisputable. It is disputable. I dispute it.

Stripped of all apparent intolerance, dogma, commandments to adhere to "every jot and tittle" of the vicious and random Old Testament Laws, and occasional pointless killing of fig trees, Jesus' message was little more than to love. To love is hardly an astounding message that had otherwise slipped past earlier moral leaders (see Socrates, Epicurus, Zoroaster, Confucious...). Neither does it lack subjectivity and ambiguity. Modern day child-torturers known as exorcists claim to be doing their work out of love. And it is hardly fair to suggest that we can go "love, therefore voting rights for women", or "love, therefore separation of church and state is good", or "love, therefore free speech", or indeed any of the Enlightenment values that we consider to be truly essential to human dignity and happiness.

The biblical Jesus is quite simply the most overrated individual in the Western world.

4:07 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

Extabgrad, I am under impression that you are trying to avoid my challenge. Jesus might be the most overrated man in history (and this is due to the fact that he is also the central figure of one of the world's major religions), but so far you have not provided any evidence that might support your comparison between the kind of love he advocated and what exorcists or communists can be doing in the name of love (for who?). If you really know the NT you must be able to see the difference. I do not believe in moral relativism. There are some norms that we honour in the Western world and I would be surprised if you could give me one example of something Jesus did or said that would disagree with our common ethics. Certainly there had been in history other leaders/humanists etc. deserving our veneration and setting moral standards for us (i.e Mahatma Gandhi), but they have not been denigrated or ridiculed in the same way. The reason for mocking Jesus is solely because he is a religious figure and not because he truly deserves vilification. Can you see my point?
Out of interest, who is the most moral man in history?
Now religious debates off.

11:25 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

/Debate on for a minute:

Extabgrad, you said: "Did Jesus free the slaves? Did Jesus empower women? Did Jesus legalise homosexuality? Did Jesus encourage free speech?"

1. Was he supposed to be another Spartacus? Or Lenin? Liberating masses from oppression? In what way? By waht means? By forming an army? This is a funny argument against.
Does he anywhere condone slavery?
2.Yes, he did elevate women to the level of men in his teachings.
Prove your point.
3. Legalize homosexuality? Was it at all illegal at that time? It definitely was not in ancient Greece nor Rome. Finally was Jesus an emperor with powers to legalise anything?
4. Yes. He did, being himself the best example of speaking his mind, no matter what consequences he faced.
Debate off/

8:22 am  
Blogger extabgrad said...

Polish, please e-mail me. This is silly.

What challenge? I challenged your assertion that Jesus was an undoubted great moral example. He wasn't. He was at best no different from a hundred other moral leaders, and at worst intolerant and dogmatic. I gave you examples of this. Where did you challenge me?

"so far you have not provided any evidence that might support your comparison between the kind of love he advocated and what exorcists or communists can be doing in the name of love"
Surely you can see how irrelevant that is. If Jesus' message was nothing more than to 'love your neighbour', the exorcist and the Inquisitor show that such a message cannot be considered a great moral ideal, since it is so subjective, ambiguous, and easily used in an immoral cause.

"I would be surprised if you could give me one example of something Jesus did or said that would disagree with our common ethics"
I already did. Why aren't you surprised? Are you not reading my posts? He condemned unbelievers to eternal torment, not something we commonly do in our multicultural society. He advocated adhering to "every jot and tittle" of the Old Testament law, which contains gems such as execution for working on the Sabbath, and for being raped. He regularly advocated the giving away of all one's possessions to poor, a decidely anti-capitalist stance that is completely contradicted by modern society (and shown up to be a completely terrible way to bring about universal prosperity).

In Matthew 15, he tells off the Pharisees for not executing disobedient children as the scriptures command. Does this conform to modern moral ideals?

Mark 7:27 "But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs."
Jesus refused (at first) to heal a woman's daughter because she was not a Jew, calling her a 'dog'. Very moral.

"The reason for mocking Jesus is solely because he is a religious figure and not because he truly deserves vilification."
The biblical Jesus claimed to be "The Way, The Truth, and The Light. Nobody comes unto the Father except by me". His ridiculous claims deserve the same ridicule that I give to any charlatan faith healer or cult leader.

"Out of interest, who is the most moral man in history?"
I've no idea. Is that even a sensible question when morals are completely relative and contextual? (Of course, you think morals are absolute, don't you...)

Since most of our modern freedoms are a direct result of Enlightenment philosophy, I revere Voltaire, Hobbes, Hume, Paine, Franklin, Kant, Jefferson, Locke, and others like them.

"Was he supposed to be another Spartacus? Or Lenin? Liberating masses from oppression? In what way? By waht means? By forming an army?"
This is irrelevant. Nothing of Jesus' message could be said to lead unambiguously to the urge to free slaves. This should be obvious given how many centuries it took after Jesus for such freedom to come about. It is not what Jesus was physically capable of doing himself that is important, it is what his message encouraged in others.

"Does he anywhere condone slavery?"
The faithful of the Southern States believed he did: "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes." (Luke 12:47-48) And, of course, Jesus upheld the OT law, which is full of references to slavery, enslavement of conquered peoples, and buying and selling of slaves. Personally, I think the point is contentious, but irrelevant. Jesus' message cannot be connected to slavery reform.

"Yes, he did elevate women to the level of men in his teachings. Prove your point."
Really? Which were the female members of the 12? I'm sorry, you can't turn around and tell me that 2 millennia of Catholic doctrine was wrong about Jesus' attitude to women, but you are right.

Of course, it was Paul, not Jesus, who was the sexist one. "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord." (Colossians 3:18) "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." (I Timothy 2:11-15). Paul supposedly knew and understood Jesus' message better than anyone, but...heck, maybe you're right, Jesus hung out with prostitutes, therefore he loved women. He never spoke out against the lowly place of women, but that doesn't mean a thing, right?

"Legalize homosexuality? Was it at all illegal at that time? It definitely was not in ancient Greece nor Rome. Finally was Jesus an emperor with powers to legalise anything?"
Oh dear. Answer the point being made, not the point you wish I'd made. Equality for all sexualities is considered a fundamental moral in modern Western society, but in no way could it be said that that attitude was derived from Jesus' message.

"Yes. He did, being himself the best example of speaking his mind, no matter what consequences he faced."
Nonsense. Jesus' message throughout is one of submission. Find me a single exortation to rebellion against tyrants in his words. As far as Jesus was concerned, justice came in the next life, not this one.

Where's Jesus' advocation of representative rule? That's what I want to know. Democracy is quintessential to modern social morality, isn't it?

This whole thing is nonsensical prevarication on your part. If you satisfactorily refute one of my points, does my whole argument crumble? The simple fact is that Jesus was a leader of a cult and thought he was god's prophet. Such claims would be considered preposterous and deserving of ridicule if any man did so in modern society. I don't revere David Koresh, I don't revere L. Ron Hubbard, I don't revere Joseph Smith, I don't revere Buddha, Mohammed, or Jesus. They all deserve derision. Labi Siffre's words:

"When someone says, “I know God exists and so, you must behave in a certain way": that is offensive, insulting, inflammatory and unworthy of respect."

Ridicule is a valid and worthy way to combat ridiculous claims. To make an exception of Jesus just because he made his ridiculous claims 2000 years ago would be unfair on modern charlatans.

11:21 am  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

Extabgrad,
I enjoy this debate with you. Keeps my mind running. Sickness and refuting Ismaeel's takiyya prevented me from replying to you.
I will soon.

2:14 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

So let's deal with it.

5:29-30 - it is a hyperbole. The intent is not to direct one to cut off his hand or pluck out his eye, but to eliminate any motive, thought, attitude, behaviour, action, or habit that can lead to wrongdoing. Jesus repeatedly uses figurative language and parables.

10:14-15 - "And if no one will welcome you or even listen to what you have to say, leave that house or town, and once outside it shake off the dust of that place from your feet. Believe me, Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better in the day of judgment than that town."
10:16-18 - "Here I am sending you out like sheep with wolves all round you; so be as wise as serpents and yet as harmless as doves. But be on your guard against men. For they will take you to the court and flog you in their synagogues."

He warns them of troubles that lie ahead and condemns inhospitality.

10:28 "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

25:41:

You should really start from here:

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

In all of these passages the divine aspect of Jesus comes into play so the perspective is different, though the principle of being held responsible for one’s own deeds (and therefore rewarded or punished) is not simply a religious notion. The criminal law is based on it, is it not?
Notice that Jesus says here that tending to the sick, to prisoners (no moral judgement here!), to all needy is the way to show love (not quite what holy Inquisitors nor Communist did for the love of humanity)

8:12:
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
It is a criticism of the righteous."Weeping and gnashing teeth" means in fact being rejected by God. Read here (Luke):

"He said to them, 24"Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'
26"Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'
27"But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'
28"There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

10:34-35:

34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'[e]

If you still cannot understand the meaning of this passage think Abdul Rahman.

"If Jesus' message was nothing more than to 'love your neighbour', the exorcist and the Inquisitor show that such a message cannot be considered a great moral ideal, since it is so subjective, ambiguous, and easily used in an immoral cause."

He said more than this:

" Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,'[d] and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'[e]"

The key is 'love your neighbour as yourself.' What is your definition of love? In our Western civilization we have reflected in our penal codes and educational system as well as customs many of the Judeo-Christian principles (see above). Obviously there is a scope of interpretations regarding what morality or goodness denotes, but is it really as subjective and relative as you maintain? Do we consider deception for the sake of spreading ideology moral? Do we excuse apartheid? Do we believe it is ethical to burn wives after their husbands' death? Surely the notion of love is not that ambiguous?

"He condemned unbelievers to eternal torment, not something we commonly do in our multicultural society. He advocated adhering to "every jot and tittle" of the Old Testament law, which contains gems such as execution for working on the Sabbath, and for being raped. “
Eternal torment is being deprived of God's presence. I am not convinced that he advocated adhering to the Mosaic law:

"Though shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22, 37 - 40

These simple statements encapsulate all that is truly important, for if one loves one's neighbour as oneself, then implicit in this is that one will behave correctly towards others, for this love will guide our actions, both towards God and to the rest of the world.

If God's essential character is unchanging, then how is it that the Old and New Testament pictures of God look so much different? Jesus even tells us in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:17, NIV) "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." But on the other hand, Jesus seems to counter-act the law when He lets the woman caught in adultery go free (John 8), and we are told numerous times in the New Testament that we are not saved by the law, but by faith, and that we have died to the law (Romans 7).
And:
Matt 5:38-46. I read these verses earlier:

"You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you many be sons of your Father in heaven."
And:
17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")
20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

“He regularly advocated the giving away of all one's possessions to poor, a decidely anti-capitalist stance that is completely contradicted by modern society (and shown up to be a completely terrible way to bring about universal prosperity)."

Come on, you do not seriously think that he was that naïve. He calls on people to temper their selfishness and greed, knowing very that they will never go to the extremes (he prescribed) in this endeavour. Reality shows how true it is.
Anyway, do we not act in a way that meets this moral requirement Jesus made half way by taxing rich people more than poor, by our welfare system etc.?


"In Matthew 15, he tells off the Pharisees for not executing disobedient children as the scriptures command. Does this conform to modern moral ideals?"

Obviously in neither passage was Jesus criticizing them (and we know what Pharisees stood for) for not killing their children but rather the subject was the traditions of man vs. the laws of God.

"Mark 7:27 "But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it unto the dogs."
Jesus refused (at first) to heal a woman's daughter because she was not a Jew, calling her a 'dog'. Very moral."

He did not call HER a dog. Again it was a hyperbole:

" 24Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre.[g] He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil[h] spirit came and fell at his feet. 26The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27"First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
28"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." 30She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone."

You have completely misunderstood this passage. Never in the gospels did Jesus change his mind or hesitated. Here Jesus' ministry was to the disciples as well as to this woman of faith. They needed to throw out their ethnic prejudice and broaden their sense of mission.

"Is that even a sensible question when morals are completely relative and contextual? (Of course, you think morals are absolute, don't you...)".

You are wrong - I do not think that morals are absolute, but I think that we teach our children a certain system of rules and principles (and there is some scope of diversity here) that we ourselves strive to adhere to, do we not? Do you teach your children (or would you if you had any?) that it is right to steal or bully his/her classmates? Fair enough moral codes differ between cultural circles , but if you truly believe that all moral systems stand equal grounds then please tell me if you consider child marriage or FGM moral? According to your reasoning it must be since what right do we have to claim our "Western values'" superiority?
Among your revered ones you mention Immanuel Kant - one of my favourite philosophers as well - did not Kant coin the concept of categorical imperative.
"Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it would become a universal law."
This in fact reminds me very much of "Love your neighbour as yourself".
Luke 12:47:
This passage is a parable: the master is Jesus who has returned to the father giving his servants (Christians in leadership positions) instructions to use his resources to care for his other servants (Christians). The unwise servant (Christian leader) in this story does not take care of the Christians under his care but rather abuses them for his own gain and uses his Master's resources for his own gain. It is all about accountability and not slavery!

"Which were the female members of the 12? I'm sorry, you can't turn around and tell me that 2 millennia of Catholic doctrine was wrong about Jesus' attitude to women, but you are right."

It is important to set the scene first. According to most rabbinical customs of Jesus' time women were not allowed to study the Torah. Eliezer, a first- century rabbi, stated: "Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman... Whoever teaches his daughter the Torah is like one who teaches her lasciviousness." The Talmud states: "Let a curse come upon the man who (must needs have) his wife or children say grace for him." There was a three-fold thanksgiving in the daily prayers of Jews: "Praised be God that he has not created me a gentile; praised be God that he has not created me a woman; praise be God that he has not created me an ignorant man."
In the great temple at Jerusalem women were limited to one outer court which was five steps below the court for men. In the synagogues the women were separated from the men, and were not allowed to read aloud or take any leading function. A rabbi regarded it as beneath his dignity to speak to a woman in public. Women were not allowed to bear witness in a court of law.

Luke 8:2, 3, and Mark 15 record that many women followed Jesus, some of whom are identified. The cultural pattern in which these women lived would have prohibited them from religious study, and in fact from leaving their households. Of Mary of Bethany the Gospel writers record a tender and costly act of devotion, which the Lord memorialized in a lasting tribute to her spiritual insight. Mary Magdalene was permitted the honour of being the first person to see the resurrected Lord. She was then commissioned by him to bear witness to his resurrection to the disciples, although custom invalidated the witness of a woman.

Jesus Christ touched the lifeless body of Jairus' daughter, and praised the faith of the ceremonially unclean woman who touched his garment (Matthew 9:20-22)

Jesus initiated conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob (John 4:7-42) and his disciples "marvelled that he was talking with a woman." In this instance, also, he strengthened the testimony of a woman, and validated her as a redeemable and valid person.
In the home of Mary and Martha, Mary was commended for taking what was considered a cultural male role, while Martha who was performing in the typical woman's function, was gently rebuked for having her priorities reversed.

Even if totally disregards the divine aspect and simply agree that religion is a means of power and status then Jesus did empower women in that sense.

Acts of the Apostles16.14-15 Lydia is identified as a deacon.
Romans 16.1 A woman, Phoebe, is called a deacon.
Romans 16.3 Priscilla is listed as above her husband, Aquila.
Romans 16.7 A woman, Junias, is identified as an apostle.
Junias was a female apostle of the 1st century. She is referenced by Paul in the Epistle to the Romans chapter 16 verse 7 and is the only recorded female apostle. She is used by feminists as proof that Paul condoned female leaders in the Church.
1 Corinthians 11 3-16 Women are commanded to uncover their heads as a sign of authority.
Galatians 3.28 "There is neither . . . male nor female for all are one in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 5.21 Husbands and wives are told to submit to each other.

Finally there is the apocryphal Gospel of Mary Magdalene, she appears as the one disciple who has courage and comforts the others in despair. She appears as the one who speaks to the others to encourage them. So she seems to be one of the apostles according to some of these other sources. Later tradition suggested she was a prostitute and that she was the one who wiped Jesus' feet with her hair. This is not said in the gospels. It has no foundation in history at all.
Feminist theology is at the core of theological debate nowadays.

You are right about the Catholic Church though. What seems to happen within the first few centuries is that whatever limited activities women might have had in the beginning started to get curtailed as you have the development of a hierarchy of clergy members with bishops, presbyters and deacons, and it's pretty firmly established that women should not be either bishops or priests. Many church fathers write about this. So that women tend to get excluded from those functions. Why does the Anglican Church support the ordination of women? Going back to the roots?

"Labi Siffre's words:

"When someone says, “I know God exists and so, you must behave in a certain way": that is offensive, insulting, inflammatory and unworthy of respect."

If someone says you must behave in a certain way then I find it offensive as well. If I exercise my free will and the power of reason and then choose to behave in a certain way then it is my right. How can this be offensive and inflammatory to anybody?
Faith does not have to be blind and irrational, nor free of scrutiny and constant questioning. Not all scientists are Atheists, many see a divine pattern in nature.
Albert Einstein believed in the existence of the Absolute, Darwin apparently confessed to being an Agnostic towards the end of his life.

"Ridicule is a valid and worthy way to combat ridiculous claims. To make an exception of Jesus just because he made his ridiculous claims 2000 years ago would be unfair on modern charlatans."

You have twisted my words. I did not say ridicule, but denigrate.
By the way, I find "The Life of Brian" hilarious (I love all Monty Python's delicious stuff).

11:16 pm  
Blogger Askinstoo said...

Very nice! I found a place where you can
make some nice extra cash secret shopping. Just go to the site below
and put in your zip to see what's available in your area.
I made over $900 last month having fun!
make extra money

2:43 pm  
Blogger extabgrad said...

Polish - I too enjoy such debate. I engage in it all the time. But I do so in places designed for such debate. This seems a bizarre place to do it. Ah well.

I'm a bit confused what we're arguing about. I was arguing that Jesus' message was neither original, special, nor could it be said to be indisputably a consistently good message (your claim that Jesus was one of the great moral examples in history). You don't seem to be challenging these points. Instead you advocate your particular interpretation of certain passages. But you don't seem to disagree that those passages can be interpreted the way I am implying.

What you agree, and is indisputable is 1) Jesus preached hellfire - literal fire and torment - for unbelievers, and 2) Jesus' attitude to Old Testament Law is at best ambiguous (you cite passages supporting and contradicting this). Your argument seems to be with other Christians, not with me. But the only thing I need to do is to point to the far greater number of Christians through history who believe(d) in a vengeful God who punishes sin with torment and who support(ed) many a horrific punishment for certain 'sins', all of whom have/had the exact same Bible as you to go by.

I don't deny that everything Jesus said and did that seemed to look like intolerance, spite or immorality could be interpreted away, but that's just spin. All we have left is the gospels, so the 'real' Jesus is the Jesus of the gospels. We also, of course, have two millennia of vicious and frankly despicable religious intolerance to take into account. The modern moderate is the exception, not the rule. Your interpretation of weeping and gnashing and fire is a very recent phenomenon, for instance.

On love, you said "is it really as subjective and relative as you maintain? Do we consider deception for the sake of spreading ideology moral? Do we excuse apartheid? Do we believe it is ethical to burn wives after their husbands' death? Surely the notion of love is not that ambiguous?"

But apartheid was supported by Christians holding Bibles. In fact, the whole subjugation of the black man in South Africa was centred in biblical interpretation. The black man was the Canaanite to be driven from the promised land.

People do believe it is moral to burn the wife with the husband just as they do believe one colour skin to be superior to another. The only moral absolutes we can identify point to exactly what we would expect - biological drives to altruism that support social species. All dogmatic scriptural or learned absolutes defy unification. In Ancient Rome, unwanted babies would be left outside the city walls to die. Any attempt to form universal principles have to be based on practicalities, because 'self-evident truths' are simply non-existent. If God inspired any scripture or any prophets, it must have been a deliberate attempt to hide our inherent 'moral' urges, not reveal them.

On Jesus' call to poverty, you said "Come on, you do not seriously think that he was that naïve". But the Franciscans did. The Quakers do (to a lesser degree). The Jesus Christians do. Naive? Tell that to the other sects, not to me!

You said "He did not call HER a dog. Again it was a hyperbole".
Very convenient! Is 'hyperbole' the new way to turn uncomfortable passages into passable ones? I thought it was 'allegory'.

On absolutes again, you said "Fair enough moral codes differ between cultural circles, but if you truly believe that all moral systems stand equal grounds then please tell me if you consider child marriage or FGM moral? According to your reasoning it must be since what right do we have to claim our "Western values'" superiority?"
I try not to misuse the term "right". Our 'rights' are not self-evident, god-given, or even necessarily 'natural'. They are fictions. We invent them to make the world work, and we try to fit them sensibly with our instinct for compassion. Our Western values are superior simply through their greater ability to produce a successful, prosperous, and happy society. Why prosperity or happiness should be goals I leave to the philosophers. Suffice it to say that most people desire happiness, so there isn't much argument. I certainly wouldn't deny, for instance, that largely unfair, arduous and repressive societies can exist perfectly successfully for centuries or longer, the Hapsburg dynasty and Imperial China being adequate examples.

On women in the church - fascinating points, but tell the church, not me. The majority of Christians present my argument for me, I don't need to make one.

You said, in context, "How can this be offensive and inflammatory to anybody?" My point was that Jesus said that god spoke through him and that we should act a certain way in order to achieve [some goal or other - eternal life, heaven, salvation of some sort, or simply avoiding hellfire - Jesus isn't that clear]. Jesus' condemnation of those who would not accept his message is cause enough to label it offensive. That's fair enough - if he were right. But he wasn't right, he was (if he existed) just a cult leader talking to god like hundreds before and after him.

Still, Jesus himself did not wield the political power or force of arms to enforce his view. His followers, however, now do.

"Not all scientists are Atheists, many see a divine pattern in nature."
A common refrain, but hardly representative. Most people are religious, most scientists are not. Does that not speak volumes to you?

You said "I did not say ridicule, but denigrate."
That's just a matter of perspective. If you hold an idea dear enough then ridicule of it will seem like denigration to you. I understand, psychologically, why a Muslim gets so worked up about a picture of Mohammed with a bomb for a turban. It's very Freudian, but no cause to suppress attacks on ideas whether they are the lightest of light humour or the most vitriolic bigotry.

Cheers,
Joss
P.S. Welcome spammers!

10:30 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home