Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Little Blasphemy is Good for the Soul

I've been on a journey to discover the true nature of God for a long while now.  For those of you who have somehow missed the history, I was born and raised Catholic, spent 8 fucking years!!! (and trust me, the F-word is appropriate there) in Catholic school, and have labelled myself a Catholic (albeit a severely lapsed one) up until sometime last year.  I'm not sure where you'd classify me at this point.  I guess the Unitarians would be the closest to what I personally believe, but I would not classify myself as one of them.  Mainly, because freeing myself from the dogma of a single faith has allowed me to get a clearer picture of who/what God really is.

(If you'd like more info on what's been churning in my brain, here is my last series of posts on the subject of my faith:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

And one of those things is the nature of what is blasphemy.

First, a boring-assed definition of blasphemy:
1. impious utterance or action concerning God or sacred things.
2. Judaism.
a. an act of cursing or reviling God.
b. pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton (YHVH) in the original, now forbidden manner instead of using a substitute pronunciation such as Adonai.
3. Theology. the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.
4. irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc.: He uttered blasphemies against life itself.
Obviously, we're going with definition 1, because that's the most contentious, and the motivation for this post.

Of course, there are a gazillion interpretations.  For a simple comparison, compare Wikipedia's entry with that of rival (and intellectual joke) Conservapedia.  Same subject, similar definitions, different interpretation and presentation.

(I'd have a kickass blasphemous clip here, clip here, but I couldn't find it.  YouTube sucks sometimes.)

The genesis of the post was a couple threads from other blogs, which touched of a long off-topic thread on Pamela's blog (and welcome to the blogroll, since I got my lazy ass motivated).  It was over the the statement "God doesn't give a shit about who's in office."   It was argued that this in itself was blasphemous because "God" and "shit" were used in the same sentence.
Which brings me to a question (phrased for maximum offense to the easily offended):  Why the hell would God give a shit what the fuck some bastard says when He knows every perverse thought, feeling, and belief in said bastard's head?

Let me put it to you another way.  If the word "shit" is what is in your head, would omitting it in the words you pray with matter?  Because yes, in talking to God, I don't censor any words I speak out loud.  And if you've read enough of me, I have no problem whipping things out, or using the coarser elements of my substantial vocabulary.

The same applies when I discuss anything.  While I make an effort not to actually attack any specific faith, or demean their God, one of the great things about this country is a little thing called the First Amendment.  In that, we are free to use the name and imagery of God in ways that may offend people.  And unless it's an overt attack on your particular flavor of religion, you should probably look beyond the offense you perceive, and try to comprehend.

A great example is the old Nine Inch Nails song "Heresy" (off the album The Downward Spiral), which includes the intensely screamed chorus:

"Your god is dead/And no one cares. If there is a hell/I'll see you there."

(This is the whole song.  If you play it, play it REALLY LOUD.)

The song is actually one of my favorite, as its blasphemy is an indictment of fire and brimstone Christianity of the Phelps family variety, and therefore a good use in my most gloriously unhumble opinion. But it attacks the hypocrisy, not God himself, or the stated dogma of most Christian faiths.

A contrasting example would have been found in my comment section.  As it was a comment I deleted for being an attack on someone's religion for no other reason than to be offensive, it will not be repeated here.  In short, it was a crude bastardization of a prayer chant.  No reason, no decency, and no chance it survives my moderation.

An in between would be AOTW Pat Robertson's comments on the Haiti situation (mainly that one about the pact with the Devil).  While I've made my opinion known (the whole AOTW thing), and I'd classify it as blasphemous presumption, I have no problem with him making those dumbass statements, because it's obviously something he believes (as he keeps finding apocalyptic shit everywhere).  Plus, like I said with the 2009 AOTY, Alan Grayson, we need people saying stupid shit to be continually entertained, and because it can sometimes be a springboard into discussions like this.

Now for those of you that were offended, what would you have done to protect the name of your God?  Have it codified that blasphemy is worthy of punishment?  And if so, what blasphemy is to be punished.  And how far do you go?  After all the extreme though out history (and currently with Islam) is death.  Not quite in favor of that myself.

In the end, with only exceptions where you use your faith and your God as a justification for vile words and evil acts, I respect the faith of all people and their God, as they have taken their own journey to find the faith that gives them strength and comfort. However, that doesn't preclude me from challenging myself and others along our various journeysSo let me end this discussion with one last thought, which you can judge the nature of the blasphemy:

If God shits in the woods and Jesus is not there, does He make an audible grunt?


Shaw Kenawe said...



You are incorrigible!

I, too, was raised a Catholic. We all have funny stories to tell about our religious indoctrination, but my personal favorite was when my second child was born and I wanted my sister-in-law, who was a Catholic, and her husband, who was a Protestant, to be the godparents. This was the age of ecumenism, and I believed there would be no problem. When I went to make arrangements with the local parish priest for my child's Baptism, I volunteered the information that the godfather was not Catholic. The priest told me this: "When you bring the child to be baptised, just tell the priest who officiates that the godfather is Catholic."

I swear to Darwin, he told me to LIE about my child's baptism!


My favorite story. I have many, many more.

I'm not bashing Catholicism. I still like to hear the Latin Mass, and the music, and the smell of the incense coming from the thurible during Mass.

I like some of the rituals, but I do not have a belief in any supernatural beings.

rockync said...

Before I moved beyond organized religion entirely and reached the higher spiritual plane of deism, I attended a fundie Christian church which became a breeding ground for offenses both real and imagined, but mostly imagined.
It got to the point where every time the church met, one or more people would stand up and recite some offense committed by another church member.
It got so bad the the preacher was more referee than pastor. I began calling it "The Church of the Offended" and it wasn't long before I was out of there!
I try not to be deliberately offensive to other people and their beliefs but it is amazing how many "Christians" jump all over me and insult my spirituality because it doesn't conform to their "true" beliefs.
I try not to let the venomous attacks get to me. I'm very content and confident in my beliefs but it makes me wonder why anyone would be part of a religion that encourages that kind of hate and intolerance.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

You know my background. I went on a 12-year mission to learn as much as I could about theology and religion, with the ultimate result that I ended up where I am. Additionally, I can quote the Bible better than the average Baptist and I know more about Vatican II than the average Catholic. I know the difference between a Jain and a Sikh and who the B'ahai are. I learned the difference between Theravadan and Tibetan Buddhism. I find religious beliefs to be intensely interesting and important... ALL of them.

The whole controversy in my opinion was a red herring to draw attention away from the actual point, which I'm figuring caused some discomforture amongst the readers, who may possibly be proponents of the currently popular 'prosperity gospel' teaching. The thought that God might not be interested in augmenting their portfolios and blessing them with a new Lexus might be too much to take.

Instead, it was just easier to call me a heretic for saying 'shit'. Then everyone can rest in comfortable mutual assurance that God will, indeed, secure their profit margins and ensure that their accountants find the latest loopholes when they file with the IRS.

The Inquisition lives!

Satyavati devi dasi said...

LOL. Got the apostrophe in the wrong place with the Baha`i. It's all good.

Patrick M said...

Shaw: Incorrigible is a wee bit of an understatement, I think. I've been that way since my Catholic school days.

My problem was never really about the indoctrination (which I grew away from eventually). But after my experiences in the travesty that was my Catholic school years (due to the fact I don't really conform to anything), even if I was still a devout Catholic, I'd send my kids anywhere other than a Catholic school. It was bad enough that the local government school would have been an improvement.

But that brings me to the frustrations of the Catholic Church. A perfect example is birth control. Most Catholics I know do the right thing and not the Papally-sanctioned right thing. In the end, the Church will fudge things as long as you're not too loud about it and it keeps asses in seats (and $$$ in the collection (I used to usher/count cash)).

Rocky: You'd think that if we are all reading the same book, we'd at least be able to agree enough not to scream "heretic" over every disagreement.

I think that's what drove everybody that's commented so far away from organized Christianity (specifically Catholicism for the rest of us). If it were as obvious as the fundamentalists (pick your flavor) thought, we wouldn't see any need to challenge, then be disenfranchised, then go seeking answers elsewhere.

Saty: None of us would have caught that typo, you know.

But that brings me to a point I didn't really touch on (but will now): Anyone who prays for God to deliver a win or cash or anything selfish (I'm guilty of it too) is wasting a whole lot of time, because prayer really doesn't work that way. That's why I kept exploring - because if prayer worked that way, God would have answered.

If prayers are answered at all, the answer is as intangible as the Deity who answered them.