Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I remember being in college when Andres Serrano, with partial funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, created "Piss Christ", which was a picture of Jesus soaking in Serrano's own urine. I remember so many people defending Serrano against the uptight Christians. I even remember them defending the NEA for the partial funding.
More recently, Marilyn Manson burns Bibles on stage during live performances. Oh, that brave Mr. Manson. Burning a Bible. How edgy. How boring.
There was some controversy when Alexis Marquette posed as a gay Krishna on the cover of Genre Magazine back in 2000. I doubt, however, that Arquette concerns himself very frequently with the possibility of being killed by a Hindu.
The television comedy South Park has, as is well known, ridicules a wide variety of religions, including Scientology and Mormonism. They have shown Jesus defecating on an American flag, and have also shown Buddha sniffing a line of cocaine.
I support the absolute right of all of these people to ridicule religion all that they want. I don't think the government should fund any of it, but I do believe in this fundamental principle: The right to ridicule religious beliefs absolutely trumps the so-called "right" not to have one's religious beliefs ridiculed.
"But it's wrong to mock deeply held religious beliefs!"
First, even if one assumed it were wrong, that would not be a sufficient reason for not having a right to do it.
Second, sometimes certain points can only be made through ridicule. Ridicule serves an important function in the free marketplace of ideas. This makes it not only not wrong to mock religious beliefs--it suggests that mocking religious beliefs plays an important role in the human quest for knowledge and may therefore be seen even as morally obligatory in many cases.
Third, that a belief is "deeply held" has no bearing on its worth. I have many deeply held beliefs. Many of them are stupid. Welcome to my world. Welcome to the world of liberty and freedom.
And so now we have the vision of a hunted man who drew an offensive picture of Muhammad.
What he drew is offensive to many. Ok. I am offended every day by something or other. I am infuriated by disrespect of the American flag, for instance. I do not kill those who do it. I do not threaten those who do it. I do not attack those who do it. I criticize them. I dispute with them. I tell them that what they do is wrong. I believe they have a right to do it.
Back to blasphemy:
Someone tried to kill a fellow cartoonist of Lars Vilks, Kurt Westergaard, with an axe.
A cell containing the American Jihad Jane plotted to assassinate Westergaard.
And now Vilks himself has just been physically attacked at a speech he was giving for freedom of speech.
The year is 2010. The place is the West. You may be offended by the delicious liberty that we all enjoy here together, yet the right to ridicule religious beliefs absolutely trumps the so-called "right" not to have one's religious beliefs ridiculed.